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ON   THE   CONNEXION   BETWEEN   JUSTICE  AND   UTILITY      ...         61 




rpHERE  are  few  circumstances  among  those  which 
make  up  the  present  condition  of  human  know- 
ledge, more  unlike  what  might  have  been  expected,  or 
more  significant  of  the  backward  state  in  which  spe- 
culation on  the  most  important  subjects  still  lingers, 
than  the  little  progress  which  has  been  made  in  the 
decision  of  the  controversy  respecting  the  criterion  of 
right  and  wrong.  From  the  dawn  of  philosophy,  the 
question  concerning  the  summum  bonum,  or,  what  is 
the  same  thing,  concerning  the  foundation  of  morality, 
has  been  accounted  the  main  problem  in  speculative 
thought,  has  occupied  the  most  gifted  intellects,  and 
divided  them  into  sects  and  schools,  carrying  on  a 
vigorous  warfare  against  one  another.  And  after 
more  than  two  thousand  years  the  same  discussions 
continue,  philosophers  are  still  ranged  under  the  same 
contending  banners,  and  neither  thinkers  nor  mankind 
at  large  seem  nearer  to  being  unanimous  on  the 
subject,  than  when  the  youth  Socrates  listened  to  the 
old  Protagoras,  and  asserted  (if  Plato's  dialogue  be 
grounded  on  a  real  conversation)  the  theory  of  utilita- 
rianism against  the  popular  morality  of  the  so-called 


It  is  true  that  similar  confusion  and  uncertainty, 
and  in  some  cases  similar  discordance,  exist  respecting 
the  first  principles  of  all  the  sciences,  not  excepting 
that  which  is  deemed  the  most  certain  of  them, 
mathematics ;  without  much  impairing,  generally  in- 
deed without  impairing  at  all,  the  trustworthiness  of 
the  conclusions  of  those  sciences.  An  apparent  ano- 
maly, the  explanation  of  which  is,  that  the  detailed 
doctrines  of  a  science  are  not  usually  deduced  from, 
nor  depend  for  their  evidence  upon,  what  are  called 
its  first  principles.  Were  it  not  so,  there  would  be 
no  science  more  precarious,  or  whose  conclusions  were 
more  insufficiently  made  out,  than  algebra ;  which 
derives  none  of  its  certainty  from  what  are  commonly 
taught  to  learners  as  its  elements,  since  these,  as  laid 
down  by  some  of  its  most  eminent  teachers,  are  as 
full  of  fictions  as  English  law,  and  of  mysteries  as 
theology.  The  truths  which  are  ultimately  accepted 
as  the  first  principles  of  a  science,  are  really  the  last 
results  of  metaphysical  analysis,  practised  on  the  ele- 
mentary notions  with  which  the  science  is  conversant ; 
and  their  relation  to  the  science  is  not  that  of  founda- 
tions to  an  edifice,  but  of  roots  to  a  tree,  which  may 
perform  their  office  equally  well  though  they  be  never 
dug  down  to  and  exposed  to  light.  But  though  in 
science  the  particular  truths  precede  the  general 
theory,  the  contrary  might  be  expected  to  be  the  case 
with  a  practical  art,  such  as  morals  or  legislation.  All 
action  is  for  the  sake  of  some  end,  and  rules  of  action, 
it  seems  natural  to  suppose,  must  take  their  whole 
character  and  colour  from  the  end  to  which  they  are 
subservient.  When  we  engage  in  a  pursuit,  a  clear 
and  precise  conception  of  what  we  are  pursuing  would 


seem  to  be  the  first  tiling  we  need,  instead  of  the  last 
we  are  to  look  forward  to.  A  test  of  right  and  wrong 
must  be  the  means,  one  would  think,  of  ascertaining 
what  is  right  or  wrong,  and  not  a  consequence  of 
having  already  ascertained  it. 

The  difficulty  is  not  avoided  by  having  recourse  to 
the  popular  theory  of  a  natural  faculty,  a  sense  or 
instinct,  informing  us  of  right  and  wrong.  For — be- 
sides that  the  existence  of  such  a  moral  instinct  is 
itself  one  of  the  matters  in  dispute — those  believers 
in  it  who  have  any  pretensions  to  philosophy,  have 
been  obliged  to  abandon  the  idea  that  it  discerns  what 
is  right  or  wrong  in  the  particular  case  in  hand,  as  our 
other  senses  discern  the  sight  or  sound  actually  pre- 
sent. Our  moral  faculty,  according  to  all  those  of  its 
interpreters  who  are  entitled  to  the  name  of  thinkers, 
supplies  us  only  with  the  general  principles  of  moral 
judgments ;  it  is  a  branch  of  our  reason,  not  of  our 
sensitive  faculty;  and  must  be  looked  to  for  the 
abstract  doctrines  of  morality,  not  for  perception  of  it 
in  the  concrete.  The  intuitive,  no  less  than  what 
may  be  termed  the  inductive,  school  of  ethics,  insists 
on  the  necessity  of  general  laws.  They  both  agree 
that  the  morality  of  an  individual  action  is  not  a 
question  of  direct  perception,  but  of  the  application  of 
a  law  to  an  individual  case.  They  recognise  also,  to  a 
great  extent,  the  same  moral  laws ;  but  differ  as  to 
their  evidence,  and  the  source  from  which  they  derive 
their  authority.  According  to  the  one  opinion,  .the 
principles  of  morals  are  evident  a  priori,  requiring 
nothing  to  command  assent,  except  that  the  meaning 
of  the  terms  be  understood.  According  to  the  other 
doctrine,  right  and  wrong,  as  well  as  truth  and  false- 



hood,  are  questions  of  observation  and  experience. 
But  both  hold  equally  that  mprality  must  be  deduced 
from  principles ;  and  the  intuitive  school  affirm  as 
strongly  as  the  inductive,  that  there  is  a  science  of 
morals.  Yet  they  seldom  attempt  to  make  out  a  list 
of  the  a  priori  principles  which  are  to  serve  as  the 
premises  of  the  science ;  still  more  rarely  do  they 
make  any  effort  to  reduce  those  various  principles  to 
one  first  principle,  or  common  ground  of  obligation. 
They  either  assume  the  ordinary  precepts  of  morals 
as  of  a  priori  authority,  or  they  lay  down  as  the  com- 
mon groundwork  of  those  maxims,  some  generality 
much  less  obviously  authoritative  than  the  maxims 
themselves,  and  which  has  never  succeeded  in  gaining 
popular  acceptance.  Yet  to  support  their  pretensions 
there  ought  either  to  be  some  one  fundamental  prin- 
ciple or  law,  at  the  root  of  all  morality,  or  if  there  be 
several,  there  should  be  a  determinate  order  of  pre- 
cedence among  them ;  and  the  one  principle,  or  the 
rule  for  deciding  between  the  various  principles  when 
they  conflict,  ought  to  be  self-evident. 

To  inquire  how  far  the  bad  effects  of  this  deficiency 
have  been  mitigated  in  practice,  or  to  what  extent  the 
moral  beliefs  of  mankind  have  been  vitiated  or  made 
uncertain  by  the  absence  of  any  distinct  recognition 
of  an  ultimate  standard,  would  imply  a  complete 
survey  and  criticism  of  past  and  present  ethical  doc- 
trine. It  would,  however,  be  easy  to  show  that 
whatever  steadiness  or  consistency  these  moral  beliefs 
have  attained,  has  been  mainly  due  to  the  tacit  in- 
fluence of  a  standard  not  recognised.  Although  the 
non-existence  of  an  acknowledged  first  principle  has 
made  ethics  not  so  much  a  guide  as  a  consecration  of 


men's  actual  sentiments,  still,  as  men's  sentiments, 
both  of  favour  and  of  aversion,  are  greatly  influenced 
by  what  they  suppose  to  be  the  effects  of  things  upon 
their  happiness,  the  principle  of  utility,  or  as  Bentham 
latterly  called  it,  the  greatest  happiness  principle,  has 
had  a  large  share  in  forming  the  moral  doctrines  even 
of  those  who  most  scornfully  reject  its  authority. 
Nor  is  there  any  school  of  thought  which  refuses  to 
admit  that  the  influence  of  actions  on  happiness  is  a 
most  material  and  even  predominant  consideration  in 
many  of  the  details  of  morals,  however  unwilling  to 
acknowledge  it  as  the  fundamental  principle  of 
morality,  and  the  source  of  moral  obligation.  I  might 
go  much  further,  and  say  that  to  all  those  a  priori  mora- 
lists who  deem  it  necessary  to  argue  at  all,  utilitarian 
arguments  are  indispensable.  It  is  not  my  present 
purpose  to  criticize  these  thinkers  ;  but  I  cannot  help 
referring,  for  illustration,  to  a  systematic  treatise  by 
one  of  the  most  illustrious  of  them,  the  Metaphysics  of 
Ethics,  by  Kant.  This  remarkable  man,  whose  system 
of  thought  will  long  remain  one  of  the  landmarks  in 
the  history  of  philosophical  speculation,  does,  in  the 
treatise  in  question,  lay  down  an  universal  first  prin- 
ciple as  the  origin  and  ground  of  moral  obligation ;  it 
is  this  : — '  So  act,  that  the  rule  on  which  thou  actest 
would  admit  of  being  adopted  as  a  law  by  all  rational 
beings.'  But  when  he  begins  to  deduce  from  this 
precept  any  of  the  actual  duties  of  morality,  he  fails, 
almost  grotesquely,  to  show  that  there  would  be  any 
contradiction,  any  logical  (not  to  say  physical)  impos- 
sibility, in  the  adoption  by  all  rational  beings  of  the 
most  outrageously  immoral  rules  of  conduct.  All 
he  shows  is  that  the  consequences  of  their  universal 


adoption  would  be  such  as  no  one  would  choose  to 

On  the  present  occasion,  I  shall,  without  further 
discussion  of  the  other  theories,  attempt  to  contribute 
something  towards  the  understanding  and  appreciation 
of  the  Utilitarian  or  Happiness  theory,  and  towards 
such  proof  as  it  is  susceptible  of.  It  is  evident  that 
this  cannot  be  proof  in  the  ordinary  and  popular 
meaning  of  the  term.  Questions  of  ultimate  ends  are 
not  amenable  to  direct  proof.  "Whatever  can  be  proved 
to  be  good,  must  be  so  by  being  shown  to  be  a  means 
to  something  admitted  to  be  good  without  proof.  The 
medical  art  is  proved  to  be  good,  by  its  conducing  to 
health ;  but  how  is  it  possible  to  prove  that  health  is 
good?  The  art  of  music  is  good,  for  the  reason, 
among  others,  that  it  produces  pleasure ;  but  what 
proof  is  it  possible  to  give  that  pleasure  is  good  ?  If, 
then,  it  is  asserted  that  there  is  a  comprehensive 
formula,  including  all  things  which  are  in  themselves 
good,  and  that  whatever  else  is  good,  is  not  so  as  an 
end,  but  as  a  mean,  the  formula  may  be  accepted  or 
rejected,  but  is  not  a  subject  of  what  is  commonly 
understood  by  proof.  We  are  not,  however,  to  infer 
that  its  acceptance  or  rejection  must  depend  on  blind 
impulse,  or  arbitrary  choice.  There  is  a  larger  meaning 
of  the  word  proof,  in  which  this  question  is  as  amen- 
able to  it  as  any  other  of  the  disputed  questions  of 
philosophy.  The  subject  is  within  the  cognizance  of 
the  rational  faculty ;  and  neither  does  that  faculty 
deal  with  it  solely  in  the  way  of  intuition.  Conside- 
rations may  be  presented  capable  of  determining  the 
intellect  either  to  give  or  withhold  its  assent  to  the 
doctrine  ;  and  this  is  equivalent  to  proof. 


We  shall  examine  presently  of  what  nature  are  these 
considerations ;  in  what  manner  they  apply  to  the 
case,  and  what  rational  grounds,  therefore,  can  be 
given  for  accepting  or  rejecting  the  utilitarian  formula. 
But  it  is  a  preliminary  condition  of  rational  acceptance 
or  rejection,  that  the  formula  should  be  correctly  under- 
stood. I  believe  that  the  very  imperfect  notion  ordi- 
narily formed  of  its  meaning,  is  the  chief  obstacle 
which  impedes  its  reception;  and  that  could  it  be 
cleared,  even  from  only  the  grosser  misconceptions, 
the  question  would  be  greatly  simplified,  and  a  large 
proportion  of  its  difficulties  removed.  Before,  there- 
fore, I  attempt  to  enter  into  the  philosophical  grounds 
which  can  be  given  for  assenting  to  the  utilitarian 
standard,  I  shall  offer  some  illustrations  of  the  doctrine 
itself;  with  the  view  of  showing  more  clearly  what  it 
is,  distinguishing  it  from  what  it  is  not,  and  disposing 
of  such  of  the  practical  objections  to  it  as  either 
originate  in,  or  are  closely  connected  with,  mistaken 
interpretations  of  its  meaning.  Having  thus  pre- 
pared the  ground,  I  shall  afterwards  endeavour  to 
throw  such  light  as  I  can  upon  the  question,  considered 
as  one  of  philosophical  theory. 




A  PASSING-  remark  is  all  that  needs  be  given  to 
the  ignorant  blunder  of  supposing  that  those  who 
stand  up  for  utility  as  the  test  of  right  and  wrong, 
use  the  term  in  that  restricted  and  merely  colloquial 
sense  in  which  utility  is  opposed  to  pleasure.  An 
apology  is  due  to  the  philosophical  opponents  of 
utilitarianism,  for  even  the  momentary  appearance  of 
confounding  them  with  any  one  capable  of  so  absurd 
a  misconception ;  which  is  the  more  extraorjdinary, 
inasmuch  as  the  contrary  accusation,  of  referring 
everything  to  pleasure,  and  that  too  in  its  grossest 
form,  is  another  of  the  common  charges  against 
utilitarianism :  and,  as  has  been  pointedly  remarked 
by  an  able  writer,  the  same  sort  of  persons,  and  often 
the  very  same  persons,  denounce  the  theory  '  as  im- 
practicably dry  when  the  word  utility  precedes  the 
word  pleasure,  and  as  too  practicably  voluptuous  when 
the  word  pleasure  precedes  the  word  utility/  Those 
who  know  anything  about  the  matter  are  aware  that 
every  writer,  from  Epicurus  to  Bentham,  who  main- 
tained the  theory  of  utility,  meant  by  it,  not  some- 
thing to  be  contradistinguished  from  pleasure,  but 
pleasure  itself,  together  with  exemption  from  pain ; 
and  instead  of  opposing  the  useful  to  the  agreeable  or 
the  ornamental,  have  always  declared  that  the  useful 


means  these,  among  other  things.  Yet  the  common 
herd,  including  the  herd  of  writers,  not  only  in  news- 
papers and  periodicals,  but  in  books  of  weight  and 
pretension,  are  perpetually  falling  into  this  shallow 
mistake.  Having  caught  up  the  word  utilitarian, 
while  knowing  nothing  whatever  about  it  but  its 
sound,  they  habitually  express  by  it  the  rejection,  or 
the  neglect,  of  pleasure  in  some  of  its  forms ;  of 
beauty,  of  ornament,  or  of  amusement.  Nor  is  the 
term  thus  ignorantly  misapplied  solely  in  disparage- 
ment, but  occasionally  in  compliment ;  as  though  it 
implied  superiority  to  frivolity  and  the  mere  pleasures 
of  the  moment.  And  this  perverted  use  is  the  only 
one  in  which  the  word  is  popularly  known,  and  the 
one  from  which  the  new  generation  are  acquiring 
their  sole  notion  of  its  meaning.  Those  who  intro- 
duced the  word,  but  who  had  for  many  years  dis- 
continued it  as  a  distinctive  appellation,  may  well  feel 
themselves  called  upon  to  resume  it,  if  by  doing  so 
they  can  hope  to  contribute  anything  towards  rescuing 
it  from  this  utter  degradation.* 

The  creed  which  accepts  as  the  foundation  of  morals, 
Utility,  or  the  Greatest  Happiness  Principle,  holds 
that  actions  are  right  in  proportion  as  they  tend  to 
promote  happiness,  wrong  as  they  tend  to  produce  the 

*  The  author  of  this  essay  has  reason  for  believing  himself  to  be  the 
first  person  who  brought  the  word  utilitarian  into  use.  He  did  not 
invent  it,  but  adopted  it  from  a  passing  expression  in  Mr.  Gait's 
Annals  of  the  Parish.  After  using  it  as  a  designation  for  several  years, 
he  and  others  abandoned  it  from  a  growing  dislike  to  anything  resem- 
bling a  badge  or  watchword  of  sectarian  distinction.  But  as  a  name 
for  one  single  opinion,  not  a  set  of  opinions — to  denote  the  recognition 
of  utility  as  a  standard,  not  any  particular  way  of  applying  it — the  term 
supplies  a  want  in  the  language,  and  offers,  in  many  cases,  a  convenient 
mode  of  avoiding  tiresome  circumlocution. 


reverse  of  happiness.  By  happiness  is  intended  plea- 
sure, and  the  absence  of  pain ;  by  unhappiness,  pain, 
and  the  privation  of  pleasure.  To  give  a  clear  view 
of  the  moral  standard  set  up  by  the  theory,  much 
more  requires  to  be  said ;  in  particular,  what  things 
it  includes  in  the  ideas  of  pain  and  pleasure ;  and  to 
what  extent  this  is  left  an  open  question.  But  these 
supplementary  explanations  do  not  affect  the  theory 
of  life  on  which  this  theory  of  morality  is  grounded — 
namely,  that  pleasure,  and  freedom  from  pain,  are  the 
only  things  desirable  as  ends ;  and  that  all  desirable 
things  (which  are  as  numerous  in  the  utilitarian  as  in 
any  other  scheme)  are  desirable  either  for  the  pleasure 
inherent  in  themselves,  or  as  means  to  the  promotion 
of  pleasure  and  the  prevention  of  pain. 

Now,  such  a  theory  of  life  excites  in  many  minds, 
and  among  them  in  some  of  the  most  estimable  in 
feeling  and  purpose,  inveterate  dislike.  To  suppose 
that  life  has  (as  they  express  it)  no  higher  end  than 
pleasure — no  better  and  nobler  object  of  desire  and 
pursuit — they  designate  as  utterly  mean  and  grovel- 
ling ;  as  a  doctrine  worthy  only  of  swine,  to  whom  the 
followers  of  Epicurus  were,  at  a  very  early  period, 
contemptuously  likened;  and  modern  holders  of  the 
doctrine  are  occasionally  made  the  subject  of  equally 
polite  comparisons  by  its  German,  French,  and  English 

When  thus  attacked,  the  Epicureans  have  always 
answered,  that  it  is  not  they,  but  their  accusers,  who 
represent  human  nature  in  a  degrading  light;  since 
the  accusation  supposes  human  beings  to  be  capable  of 
no  pleasures  except  those  of  which  swine  are  capable. 
If  this  supposition  were  true,  the  charge  could  not  be 

ITS    MEANING.  11 

gainsaid,  but  would  then  be  no  longer  an  imputation ; 
for  if  the  sources  of  pleasure  were  precisely  the  same 
to  human  beings  and  to  swine,  the  rule  of  life  which 
is  good  enough  for  the  one  would  be  good  enough  for 
the  other.  The  comparison  of  the  Epicurean  life  to 
that  of  beasts  is  felt  as  degrading,  precisely  because  a 
beast's  pleasures  do  not  satisfy  a  human  being's  con- 
ceptions of  happiness.  Human  beings  have  faculties 
more  elevated  than  the  animal  appetites,  and  when 
once  made  conscious  of  them,  do  not  regard  anything 
as  happiness  which  does  not  include  their  gratification. 
I  do  not,  indeed,  consider  the  Epicureans  to  have  been 
by  any  means  faultless  in  drawing  out  their  scheme  of 
consequences  from  the  utilitarian  principle.  To  do 
this  in  any  sufficient  manner,  many  Stoic,  as  well  as 
Christian  elements  require  to  be  included.  But  there 
is  no  known  Epicurean  theory  of  life  which  does  not 
assign  to  the  pleasures  of  the  intellect,  of  the  feelings 
and  imagination,  and  of  the  moral  sentiments,  a  much 
higher  value  as  pleasures  than  to  those  of  mere  sensa- 
tion. It  must  be  admitted,  however,  that  utilitarian 
writers  in  general  have  placed  the  superiority  of 
mental  over  bodily  pleasures  chiefly  in  the  greater 
permanency,  safety,  uncostliness,  &c.,  of  the  former — 
that  is,  in  their  circumstantial  advantages  rather  than 
in  their  intrinsic  nature.  And  on  all  these  points 
utilitarians  have  fully  proved  their  case ;  but  they 
might  have  taken  the  other,  and,  as  it  may  be  called, 
higher  ground,  with  entire  consistency.  It  is  quite 
compatible  with  the  principle  of  utility  to  recognise 
the  fact,  that  some  kinds  of  pleasure  are  more  desirable 
and  more  valuable  than  others.  It  would  be  absurd 
that  while,  in  estimating  all  other  things,  quality  is 


considered  as  well  as  quantity,  the  estimation  of 
pleasures  should  be  supposed  to  depend  on  quantity 

If  I  am  asked,  what  I  mean  by  difference  of  quality 
in  pleasures,  or  what  makes  one  pleasure  more  valuable 
than  another,  merely  as  a  pleasure,  except  its  being 
greater  in  amount,  there  is  but  one  possible  answer. 
Of  two  pleasures,  if  there  be  one  to  which  all  or  almost 
all  who  have  experience  of  both  give  a  decided  pre- 
ference, irrespective  of  any  feeling  of  moral  obligation 
to  prefer  it,  that  is  the  more  desirable  pleasure.  If 
one  of  the  two  is,  by  those  who  are  competently 
acquainted  with  both,  placed  so  far  above  the  other 
that  they  prefer  it,  even  though  knowing  it  to  be  at- 
tended with  a  greater  amount  of  discontent,  and  would 
not  resign  it  for  any  quantity  of  the  other  pleasure 
which  their  nature  is  capable  of,  we  are  justified  in 
ascribing  to  the  preferred  enjoyment  a  superiority  in 
quality,  so  far  outweighing  quantity  as  to  render  it,  in 
comparison,  of  small  account. 

Now  it  is  an  unquestionable  fact  that  those  who 
are  equally  acquainted  with,  and  equally  capable  of 
appreciating  and  enjoying,  both,  do  give  a  most 
marked  preference  to  the  manner  of  existence  which 
employs  their  higher  faculties.  Tew  human  creatures 
would  consent  to  be  changed  into  any  of  the  lower 
animals,  for  a  promise  of  the  fullest  allowance  of  a 
beast's  pleasures ;  no  intelligent  human  being  would 
consent  to  be  a  fool,  no  instructed  person  would  be  an 
ignoramus,  no  person  of  feeling  and  conscience  would 
be  selfish  and  base,  even  though  they  should  be  per- 
suaded that  the  fool,  the  dunce,  or  the  rascal  is  better 
satisfied  with  his  lot  than  they  are  with  theirs.  They 

ITS    MEANING.  13 

would  not  resign  what  they  possess  more  than  he,  for 
the  most  complete  satisfaction  of  all  the  desires  which 
they  have  in  common  with  him.  If  they  ever  fancy 
they  would,  it  is  only  in  cases  of  unhappiness  so 
extreme,  that  to  escape  from  it  they  would  exchange 
their  lot  for  almost  any  other,  however  undesirable  in 
their  own  eyes.  A  being  of  higher  faculties  requires 
more  to  make  him  happy,  is  capable  probably  of  more 
acute  suffering,  and  certainly  accessible  to  it  at  more 
points,  than  one  of  an  inferior  type ;  but  in  spite  of 
these  liabilities,  he  can  never  really  wish  to  sink  into 
what  he  feels  to  be  a  lower  grade  of  existence.  We 
may  give  what  explanation  we  please  of  this  unwilling- 
ness ;  we  may  attribute  it  to  pride,  a  name  which  is 
given  indiscriminately  to  some  of  the  most  and  to 
some  of  the  least  estimable  feelings  of  which  mankind 
are  capable  :  we  may  refer  it  to  the  love  of  liberty  and 
personal  independence,  an  appeal  to  which  was  with 
the  Stoics  one  of  the  most  effective  means  for  the  in- 
culcation of  it ;  to  the  love  of  power,  or  to  the  love  of 
excitement,  both  of  which  do  really  enter  into  and 
contribute  to  it :  but  its  most  appropriate  appellation 
is  a  sense  of  dignity,  which  all  human  beings  possess 
in  one  form  or  other,  and  in  some,  though  by  no  means 
in  exact,  proportion  to  their  higher  faculties,  and 
which  is  so  essential  a  part  of  the  happiness  of  those 
in  whom  it  is  strong,  that  nothing  which  conflicts 
with  it  could  be,  otherwise  than  momentarily,  an 
object  of  desire  to  them.  Whoever  supposes  that  this 
preference  takes  place  at  a  sacrifice  of  happiness — that 
the  superior  being,  in  anything  like  equal  circum- 
stances, is  not  happier  than  the  inferior — confounds 
the  two  very  different  ideas,  of  happiness,  and  content. 


It  is  indisputable  that  the  being  whose  capacities  of 
enjoyment  are  low,  has  the  greatest  chance  of  having 
them  fully  satisfied ;  and  a  highly  endowed  being  will 
always  feel  that  any  happiness  which  he  can  look  for, 
as  the  world  is  constituted,  is  imperfect.  But  he  can 
learn  to  bear  its  imperfections,  if  they  are  at  all 
bearable ;  and  they  will  not  make  him  envy  the  being 
who  is  indeed  unconscious  of  the  imperfections,  but 
only  because  he  feels  not  at  all  the  good  which  those 
imperfections  qualify.  It  is  better  to  be  a  human 
being  dissatisfied  than  a  pig  satisfied;  better  to  be 
Socrates  dissatisfied  than  a  fool  satisfied.  And  if  the 
fool,  or  the  pig,  are  of  a  different  opinion,  it  is  because 
they  only  know  their  own  side  of  the  question.  The 
other  party  to  the  comparison  knows  both  sides. 

It  may  be  objected,  that  many  who  are  capable  of 
the  higher  pleasures,  occasionally,  under  thd  influence 
of  temptation,  postpone  them  to  the  lower.  But  this 
is  quite  compatible  with  a  full  appreciation  of  the  in- 
trinsic superiority  of  the  higher.  Men  often,  from 
infirmity  of  character,  make  their  election  for  the 
nearer  good,  though  they  know  it  to  be  the  less 
valuable ;  and  this  no  less  when  the  choice  is  between 
two  bodily  pleasures,  than  when  it  is  between  bodily 
and  mental.  They  pursue  sensual  indulgences  to  the 
injury  of  health,  though  perfectly  aware  that  health  is 
the  greater  good.  It  may  be  further  objected,  that 
many  who  begin  with  youthful  enthusiasm  for  every- 
thing noble,  as  they  advance  in  years  sink  into  indo- 
lence and  selfishness.  But  I  do  not  believe  that  those 
who  undergo  this  very  common  change,  voluntarily 
choose  the  lower  description  of  pleasures  in  preference 
to  the  higher.  I  believe  that  before  they  devote 

ITS    MEANING.  15 

themselves  exclusively  to  the  one,  they  have  already 
become  incapable  of  the  other.  Capacity  for  the 
nobler  feelings  is  in  most  natures  a  very  tender  plant, 
easily  killed,  not  only  by  hostile  influences,  but  by 
mere  want  of  sustenance;  and  in  the  majority  of 
young  persons  it  speedily  dies  away  if  the  occupations 
to  which  their  position  in  life  has  devoted  them,  and 
the  society  into  which  it  has  thrown  them,  are  not 
favourable  to  keeping  that  higher  capacity  in  exercise. 
Men  lose  their  high  aspirations  as  they  lose  their  in- 
tellectual tastes,  because  they  have  not  time  or  oppor- 
tunity for  indulging  them ;  and  they  addict  themselves 
to  inferior  pleasures,  not  because  they  deliberately 
prefer  them,  but  because  they  are  either  the  only  ones 
to  which  they  have  access,  or  the  only  ones  which 
they  are  any  longer  capable  of  enjoying.  It  may  be 
questioned  whether  any  one  who  has  remained  equally 
susceptible  to  both  classes  of  pleasures,  ever  knowingly 
and  calmly  preferred  the  lower ;  though  many,  in  all 
ages,  have  broken  down  in  an  ineffectual  attempt  to 
combine  both. 

From  this  verdict  of  the  only  competent  judges,  I 
apprehend  there  can  be  no  appeal.  On  a  question 
which  is  the  best  worth  having  of  two  pleasures,  or 
which  of  two  modes  of  existence  is  the  most  grateful 
to  the  feelings,  apart  from  its  moral  attributes  and 
from  its  consequences,  the  judgment  of  those  who  are 
qualified  by  knowledge  of  both,  or,  if  they  differ,  that 
of  the  majority  among  them,  must  be  admitted  as 
final.  And  there  needs  be  the  less  hesitation  to  accept 
this  judgment  respecting  the  quality  of  pleasures,  since 
there  is  no  other  tribunal  to  be  referred  to  even  on 
the  question  of  quantity.  What  means  are  there  of 


determining  which  is  the  acutest  of  two  pains,  or  the 
intensest  of  two  pleasurable  sensations,  except  the 
general  suffrage  of  those  who  are  familiar  with  both  ? 
Neither  pains  nor  pleasures  are  homogeneous,  and 
pain  is  always  heterogeneous  with  pleasure.  What  is 
there  to  decide  whether  a  particular  pleasure  is  worth 
purchasing  at  the  cost  of  a  particular  pain,  except  the 
feelings  and  judgment  of  the  experienced?  When, 
therefore,  those  feelings  and  judgment  declare  the 
pleasures  derived  from  the  higher  faculties  to  be  pre- 
ferable in  kind,  apart  from  the  question  of  intensity, 
to  those  of  which  the  animal  nature,  disjoined  from 
the  higher  faculties,  is  suspectible,  they  are  entitled 
on  this  subject  to  the  same  regard. 

I  have  dwelt  on  this  point,  as  being  a  necessary 
part  of  a  perfectly  just  conception  of  Utility  or 
Happiness,  considered  as  the  directive  rule  of  human 
conduct.  But  it  is  by  no  means  an  indispensable 
condition  to  the  acceptance  of  the  utilitarian  standard; 
for  that  standard  is  not  the  agent's  own  greatest  hap- 
piness, but  the  greatest  amount  of  happiness  altoge- 
ther ;  and  if  it  may  possibly  be  doubted  whether  a 
noble  character  is  always  the  happier  for  its  noble- 
ness, there  can  be  no  doubt  that  it  makes  other  peop 
happier,  and  that  the  world  in  general  is  immensely 
a  gainer  by  it.  Utilitarianism,  therefore,  could  only 
attain  its  end  by  the  general  cultivation  of  nobleness 
of  character,  even  if  each  individual  were  only  bene- 
fited by  the  nobleness  of  others,  and  his  own,  so  far 
as  happiness  is  concerned,  were  a  sheer  deduction 
from  the  benefit.  But  the  bare  enunciation  of  such 
an  absurdity  as  this  last,  renders  refutation  super- 

ITS    MEANING.  17 

According  to  the  Greatest  Happiness  Principle,  as 
above  explained,  the  ultimate  end,  with  reference  to 
and  for  the  sake  of  which  all  other  things  are  desirable 
(whether  we  are  considering  our  own  good  or  that  of 
other  people),  is  an  existence  exempt  as  far  as  possible 
from  pain,  and  as  rich  as  possible  in  enjoyments,  both 
in  point  of  quantity  and  quality ;  the  test  of  quality, 
and  the  rule  for  measuring  it  against  quantity,  being 
the  preference  felt  by  those  who  in  their  opportunities 
of  experience,  to  which  must  be  added  their  habits  of 
self-consciousness  and  self-observation,  are  best  fur- 
nished with  the  means  of  comparison.  This,  being, 
according  to  the  utilitarian  opinion,  the  end  of  human 
action,  is  necessarily  also  the  standard  of  morality; 
which  may  accordingly  be  defined,  the  rules  and 
precepts  for  human  conduct,  by  the  observance  of 
which  an  existence  such  as  has  been  described  might 
be,  to  the  greatest  extent  possible,  secured  to  all 
mankind ;  and  not  to  them  only,  but,  so  far  as  the 
nature  of  things  admits,  to  the  whole  sentient  creation. 

Against  this  doctrine,  however,  arises  another  class 
of  objectors,  who  say  that  happiness,  in  any  form, 
cannot  be  the  rational  purpose  of  human  life  and 
action ;  because,  in  the  first  place,  it  is  unattainable : 
and  they  contemptuously  ask,  what  right  hast  thou 
to  be  happy?  a  question  which  Mr.  Carlyle  clenches 
by  the  addition,  What  right,  a  short  time  ago,  hadst 
thou  even  to  be  ?  Next,  they  say,  that  men  can  do 
loithout  happiness ;  that  all  noble  human  beings  have 
felt  this,  and  could  not  have  become  noble  but  by 
learning  the  lesson  of  Entsagen,  or  renunciation ; 
which  lesson,  thoroughly  learnt  and  submitted  to, 


they  affirm  to  be  the  beginning  and  necessary  con- 
dition of  all  virtue. 

The  first  of  these  objections  would  go  to  the  root 
of  the  matter  were  it  well  founded ;  for  if  no  happi- 
ness is  to  be  had  at  all  by  human  beings,  the  attain- 
ment of  it  cannot  be  the  end  of  morality,  or  of  any 
rational  conduct.  Though,  even  in  that  case,  some- 
thing might  still  be  said  for  the  utilitarian  theory  : 
since  utility  includes  not  solely  the  pursuit  of  happi- 
ness, but  the  prevention  or  mitigation  of  unhappiness : 
and  if  the  former  aim  be  chimerical,  there  will  be  all 
the  greater  scope  and  more  imperative  need  for  the 
latter,  so  long  at  least  as  mankind  think  fit  to  live, 
and  do  not  take  refuge  in  the  simultaneous  act  of 
suicide  recommended  under  certain  conditions  by 
Novalis.  When,  however,  it  is  thus  positively  asserted 
to  be  impossible  that  human  life  should  be  ttappy,  the 
assertion,  if  not  something  like  a  verbal  quibble,  is  at 
least  an  exaggeration.  If  by  happiness  be  meant  a 
continuity  of  highly  pleasurable  excitement,  it  is 
evident  enough  that  this  is  impossible.  A  state  of 
exalted  pleasure  lasts  only  moments,  or  in  some  cases, 
and  with  some  intermissions,  hours  or  days,  and  is  the 
occasional  brilliant  flash  of  enjoyment,  not  its  perma- 
nent and  steady  flame.  Of  this  the  philosophers  who 
have  taught  that  happiness  is  the  end  of  life  were  as 
fully  aware  as  those  who  taunt  them.  The  happiness 
which  they  meant  was  not  a  life  of  rapture ;  but ' 
moments  of  such,  in  an  existence  made  up  of  few  and 
transitory  pains,  many  and  various  pleasures,  with  a 
decided  predominance  of  the  active  over  the  passive, 
and  having  as  the  foundation  of  the  whole,  not  to 
expect  more  from  life  than  it  is  capable  of  bestowing. 

ITS    MEANING.  19 

'A  life  thus  composed,  to  those  who  have  been  fortu- 
nate enough  to  obtain  it,  has  always  appeared  worthy 
of  the  name  of  happiness.  And  such  an  existence  is 
even  now  the  lot  of  man}7',  during  some  considerable 
portion  of  their  lives.  The  present  wretched  educa- 
tion, and  wretched  social  arrangements,  are  the  only 
real  hindrance  to  its  being  attainable  by  almost  all. 

The  objectors  perhaps  may  doubt  whether  human 
beings,  if  taught  to  consider  happiness  as  the  end  of 
life,  would  be  satisfied  with  such  a  moderate  share  of 
it.  But  great  numbers  of  mankind  have  been  satis- 
fied with  much  less.  The  main  constituents  of  a 
satisfied  life  appear  to  be  two,  either  of  which  by 
itself  is  often  found  sufficient  for  the  purpose :  tran- 
quillity, and  excitement.  With  much  tranquillity, 
many  find  that  they  can  be  content  with  very  little 
pleasure :  with  much  excitement,  many  can  reconcile 
themselves  to  a  considerable  quantity  of  pain.  There 
is  assuredly  no  inherent  impossibility  in  enabling  even 
the  mass  of  mankind  to  unite  both ;  since  the  two  are 
so  far  from  being  incompatible  that  they  are  in  natural 
alliance,  the  prolongation  of  either  being  a  preparation 
for,  and  exciting  a  wish  for,  the  other.  It  is  only 
those  in  whom  indolence  amounts  to  a  vice,  that  do 
not  desire  excitement  after  an  interval  of  repose :  it  is 
only  those  in  whom  the  need  of  excitement  is  a  disease, 
that  feel  the  tranquillity  which  follows  excitement 
dull  and  insipid,  instead  of  pleasurable  in  direct  pro- 
portion to  the  excitement  which  preceded  it.  When 
people  who  are  tolerably  fortunate  in  their  outward 
lot  do  not  find  in  life  sufficient  enjoyment  to  make  it 
valuable  to  them,  the  cause  generally  is,  caring  for 
nobody  but  themselves.  To  those  who  have  neither 



public  nor  private  affections,  the  excitements  of  life 
are  much  curtailed,  and  in  any  case  dwindle  in  value 
as  the  time  approaches  when  all  selfish  interests  must 
be  terminated  by  death :  while  those  who  leave  after 
them  objects  of  personal  affection,  and  especially  those 
who  have  also  cultivated  a  fellow-feeling  with  the 
collective  interests  of  mankind,  retain  as  lively  an  in- 
terest in  life  on  the  eve  of  death  as  in  the  vigour  of 
youth  and  health.  Next  to  selfishness,  the  principal 
cause  which  makes  life  unsatisfactory  is  want  of 
mental  cultivation.  A  cultivated  mind — I  do  not 
mean  that  of  a  philosopher,  but  any  mind  to  which 
the  fountains  of  knowledge  have  been  opened,  and 
which  has  been  taught,  in  any  tolerable  degree,  to 
exercise  its  faculties — finds  sources  of  inexhaustible 
interest  in  all  that  surrounds  it;  in  the  objects  of 
nature,  the  achievements  of  art,  the  imagiAations  of 
poetry,  the  incidents  of  history,  the  ways  of  mankind, 
past  and  present,  and  their  prospects  in  the  future. 
It.  is  possible,  indeed,  to  become  indifferent  to  all  this, 
and  that  too  without  having  exhausted  a  thousandth 
part  of  it;  but  only  when  one  has  had  from  the 
beginning  no  moral  or  human  interest  in  these  things, 
and  has  sought  in  them  only  the  gratification  of 

Now  there  is  absolutely  no  reason  in  the  nature  of 
things  why  an  amount  of  mental  culture  sufficient  to 
give  an  intelligent  interest  in  these  objects  of  contem- 
plation, should  not  be  the  inheritance  of  every  one 
born  in  a  civilized  country.  As  little  is  there  an  in- 
herent necessity  that  any  human  being  should  be  a 
selfish  egotist,  devoid  of  every  feeling  or  care  but  those 
which  centre  in  his  own  miserable  individuality.  Some- 

ITS    MEANING.  21 

thing  far  superior  to  this  is  sufficiently  common  even 
now,  to  give  ample  earnest  of  what  the  human  species 
may  be  made.  Genuine  private  affections,  and  a 
sincere  interest  in  the  public  good,  are  possible,  though 
in  unequal  degrees,  to  every  rightly  brought  up  human 
being.  In  a  world  in  which  there  is  so  much  to  inte- 
rest, so  much  to  enjoy,  and  so  much  also  to  correct 
and  improve,  every  one  who  has  this  moderate  amount 
of  moral  and  intellectual  requisites  is  capable  of  an 
existence  which  may  be  called  enviable ;  and  unless 
such  a  person,  through  bad  laws,  or  subjection  to  the 
will  of  others,  is  denied  the  liberty  to  use  the  sources 
of  happiness  within  his  reach,  he  will  not  fail  to  find 
this  enviable  existence,  if  he  escape  the  positive  evils 
of  life,  the  great  sources  of  physical  and  mental  suf- 
fering— such  as  indigence,  disease,  and  the  unkind- 
ness,  worthlessness,  or  premature  loss  of  objects  of 
affection.  The  main  stress  of  the  problem  lies,  there- 
fore, in  the  contest  with  these  calamities,  from  which 
it  is  a  rare  good  fortune  entirely  to  escape ;  which,  as 
things  now  are,  cannot  be  obviated,  and  often  cannot 
be  in  any  material  degree  mitigated.  Yet  no  one 
whose  opinion  deserves  a  moment's  consideration  can 
doubt  that  most  of  the  great  positive  evils  of  the 
world  are  in  themselves  removable,  and  will,  if  human 
affairs  continue  to  improve,  be  in  the  end  reduced 
within  narrow  limits.  Poverty,  in  any  sense  implying 
suffering,  may  be  completely  extinguished  by  the 
wisdom  of  society,  combined  with  the  good  sense  and 
providence  of  individuals.  Even  that  most  intractable 
of  enemies,  disease,  may  be  indefinitely  reduced  in 
dimensions  by  good  physical  and  moral  education, 
and  proper  control  of  noxious  influences ;  while  the 


progress  of  science  holds  out  a  promise  for  the  future 
of  still  more  direct  conquests  over  this  detestable  foe. 
And  every  advance  in  that  direction  relieves  us  from 
some,  not  only  of  the  chances  which  cut  short  our 
own  lives,  hut,  what  concerns  us  still  more,  which 
deprive  us  of  those  in  whom  our  happiness  is  wrapt 
up.  As  for  vicissitudes  of  fortune,  and  other  disap- 
pointments connected  with  worldly  circumstances, 
these  are  principally  the  effect  either  of  gross  impru- 
dence, of  ill-regulated  desires,  or  of  bad  or  imperfect 
social  institutions.  All  the  grand  sources,  in  short, 
of  human  suffering  are  in  a  great  degree,  many  of 
them  almost  entirely,  conquerable  by  human  care  and 
effort ;  and  though  their  removal  is  grievously  slow — 
though  a  long  succession  of  generations  will  perish  in 
the  breach  before  the  conquest  is  completed,  and  this 
world  becomes  all  that,  if  will  and  knowledge  were 
not  wanting,  it  might  easily  be  made — yet  every 
mind  sufficiently  intelligent  and  generous  to  bear  a 
part,  however  small  and  un conspicuous,  in  the  endea- 
vour, will  draw  a  noble  enjoyment  from  the  contest 
itself,  which  he  would  not  for  any  bribe  in  the  form 
of  selfish  indulgence  consent  to  be  without. 

And  this  leads  to  the  true  estimation  of  what  is 
said  by  the  objectors  concerning  the  possibility,  and 
the  obligation,  of  learning  to  do  without  happiness. 
Unquestionably  it  is  possible  to  do  without  happiness ; 
it  is  done  involuntarily  by  nineteen-twentieths  of 
mankind,  even  in  those  parts  of  our  present  world 
which  are  least  deep  in  barbarism ;  and  it  often  has 
to  be  done  voluntarily  by  the  hero  or  the  martyr,  for 
the  sake  of  something  which  he  prizes  more  than  his 
individual  happiness.  But  this  something,  what  is 

ITS    MEANING.  23 

it,  unless  the  happiness  of  others,  or  some  of  the 
requisites  of  happiness  ?  It  is  noble  to  be  capable  of 
resigning  entirely  one's  own  portion  of  happiness,  or 
chances  of  it :  but,  after  all,  this  self- sacrifice  must  be 
for  some  end ;  it  is  not  its  own  end ;  and  if  we  are 
told  that  its  end  is  not  happiness,  but  virtue,  which  is 
better  than  happiness,  I  ask,  would  the  sacrifice  be 
made  if  the  hero  or  martyr  did  not  believe  that  it 
would  earn  for  others  immunity  from  similar  sacri- 
fices ?  Would  it  be  made  if  he  thought  that  his 
renunciation  of  happiness  for  himself  would  produce 
no  fruit  for  any  of  his  fellow  creatures,  but  to  make 
their  lot  like  his,  and  place  them  also  in  the  condition 
of  persons  who  have  renounced  happiness  ?  All  honour 
to  those  who  can  abnegate  for  themselves  the  personal 
enjoyment  of  life,  when  by  such  renunciation  they 
contribute  worthily  to  increase  the  amount  of  happi- 
ness in  the  world ;  but  he  who  does  it,  or  professes  to 
do  it,  for  any  other  purpose,  is  no  more  deserving  of 
admiration  than  the  ascetic  mounted  on  his  pillar. 
He  may  be  an  inspiriting  proof  of  what  men  can  do, 
but  assuredly  not  an  example  of  what  they  should. 

Though  it  is  only  in  a  very  imperfect  state  of  the 
world's  arrangements  that  any  one  can  best  serve  the 
happiness  of  others  by  the  absolute  sacrifice  of  his 
own,  yet  so  long  as  the  world  is  in  that  imperfect 
state,  I  fully  acknowledge  that  the  readiness  to  make 
such  a  sacrifice  is  the  highest  virtue  which  can  be 
found  in  man.  I  will  add,  that  in  this  condition  of 
the  world,  paradoxical  as  the  assertion  may  be,  the 
conscious  ability  to  do  without  happiness  gives  the 
best  prospect  of  realizing  such  happiness  as  is  attain- 
able. For  nothing  except  that  consciousness,  can 


raise  a  person  above  the  chances  of  life,  by  making 
him  feel  that,  let  fate  and  fortune  do  their  worst,  they 
have  not  power  to  subdue  him  :  which,  once  felt,  frees 
him  from  excess  of  anxiety  concerning  the  evils  of 
life,  and  enables  him,  like  many  a  Stoic  in  the  worst 
times  of  the  Eoman  Empire,  to  cultivate  in  tranquil- 
lity the  sources  of  satisfaction  accessible  to  him,  with- 
out concerning  himself  about  the  uncertainty  of  their 
duration,  any  more  than  about  their  inevitable  end. 

Meanwhile,  let  utilitarians  never  cease  to  claim  the 
morality  of  self  devotion  as  a  possession  which  belongs 
by  as  good  a  right  to  them,  as  either  to  the  Stoic  or 
to  the  Transcendentalist.  The  utilitarian  morality 
does  recognise  in  human  beings  the  power  of  sacri- 
ficing their  own  greatest  good  for  the  good  of  others. 
It  only  refuses  to  admit  that  the  sacrifice  is  itself  a 
good.  A  sacrifice  which  does  not  increase,  or/ tend  to 
increase,  the  sum  total  of  happiness,  it  considers  as 
wasted.  The  only  self-renunciation  which  it  applauds, 
is  devotion  to  the  happiness,  or  to  some  of  the  means 
of  happiness,  of  others ;  either  of  mankind  collectively, 
or  of  individuals  within  the  limits  imposed  by  the 
collective  interests  of  mankind. 

I  must  again  repeat,  what  the  assailants  of  utili- 
tarianism seldom  have  the  justice  to  acknowledge,  that 
the  happiness  which  forms  the  utilitarian  standard  of 
what  is  right  in  conduct,  is  not  the  agent's  own  hap- 
piness, but  that  of  all  concerned.  As  between  his 
own  happiness  and  that  of  others,  utilitarianism  re- 
quires him  to  be  as  strictly  impartial  as  a  disinterested 
and  benevolent  spectator.  In  the  golden  rule  of  Jesus 
of  Nazareth,  we  read  the  complete  spirit  of  the  ethics 
of  utility.  To  do  as  you  would  be  done  by,  and  to 

'  ITS    MEANING.  25 

love  your  neighbour  as  yourself,  constitute  the  ideal 
perfection  of  utilitarian  morality.  As  the  means  of 
making  the  nearest  approach  to  this  ideal,  utility 
would  enjoin,  first,  that  laws  and  social  arrangements 
should  place  the  happiness,  or  (as  speaking  practically 
it  may  be  called)  the  interest,  of  every  individual,  as 
nearly  as  possible  in  harmony  with  the  interest  of  the 
whole;  and  secondly,  that  education  and  opinion, 
which  have  so  vast  a  power  over  human  character, 
should  so  use  that  power  as  to  establish  in  the  mind 
of  every  individual  an  indissoluble  association  between 
his  own  happiness  and  the  good  of  the  whole ;  espe- 
cially between  his  own  happiness  and  the  practice  of 
such  modes  of  conduct,  negative  and  positive,  as  regard 
for  the  universal  happiness  prescribes;  so  that  not 
only  he  may  be  unable  to  conceive  the  possibility  of 
happiness  to  himself,  consistently  with  conduct  opposed 
to  the  general  good,  but  also  that  a  direct  impulse  to 
promote  the  general  good  may  be  in  every  individual 
one  of  the  habitual  motives  of  action,  and  the  senti- 
ments connected  therewith  may  fill  a  large  and  pro- 
minent place  in  every  human  being's  sentient  existence. 
If  the  impugners  of  the  utilitarian  morality  repre- 
sented it  to  their  own  minds  in  this  its  true  character, 
I  know  not  what  recommendation  possessed  by  any 
other  morality  they  could  possibly  affirm  to  be  wanting 
to  it ;  what  more  beautiful  or  more  exalted  develop- 
ments of  human  nature  any  other  ethical  system  can 
be  supposed  to  foster,  or  what  springs  of  action,  not 
accessible  to  the  utilitarian,  such  systems  rely  on  for 
giving  effect  to  their  mandates. 

The  objectors  to  utilitarianism  cannot  always  be 
charged  with  representing  it  in  a  discreditable  light. 


On  the  contrary,  those  among  them  who  entertain 
anything  like  a  just  idea  of  its  disinterested  character, 
sometimes  find  fault  with  its  standard  as  being  too 
high  for  humanity.  They  say  it  is  exacting  too  much 
to  require  that  people  shall  always  act  from  the  in- 
ducement of  promoting  the  general  interests  of  society. 
But  this  is  to  mistake  the  very  meaning  of  a  standard 
of  morals,  and  confound  the  rule  of  action  with  the 
motive  of  it.  It  is  the  business  of  ethics  to  tell  us 
what  are  our  duties,  or  by  what  test  we  may  know 
them ;  but  no  system  of  ethics  requires  that  the  sole 
motive  of  all  we  do  shall  be  a  feeling  of  duty ;  on  the 
contrary,  ninety-nine  hundredths  of  all  our  actions 
are  done  from  other  motives,  and  rightly  so  done,  if 
the  rule  of  duty  does  not  condemn  them.  It  is  the 
more  unjust  to  utilitarianism  that  this  particular  mis- 
apprehension should  be  made  a  ground  of  objection 
to  it,  inasmuch  as  utilitarian  moralists  have  gone 
beyond  almost  all  others  in  affirming  that  the  motive 
has  nothing  to  do  with  the  morality  of  the  action, 
though  much  with  the  worth  of  the  agent.  He  who 
saves  a  fellow  creature  from  drowning  does  what  is 
morally  right,  whether  his  motive  be  duty,  or  the  hope 
of  being  paid  for  his  trouble ;  he  who  betrays  the 
friend  that  trusts  him,  is  guilty  of  a  crime,  even  if  his 
object  be  to  serve  another  friend  to  whom  he  is  under 
greater  obligations.  But  to  speak  only  of  actions 
done  from  the  motive  of  duty,  and  in  direct  obedience 
to  principle  :  it  is  a  misapprehension  of  the  utilitarian 
mode  of  thought,  to  conceive  it  as  implying  that  people 
should  fix  their  minds  upon  so  wide  a  generality  as  the 
world,  or  society  at  large.  The  great  majority  of  good 
actions  are  intended  not  for  the  benefit  of  the  world, 

ITS    MEANING.  27 

but  for  that  of  individuals,  of  which  the  good  of  the 
world  is  made  up ;  and  the  thoughts  of  the  most 
virtuous  man  need  not  on  these  occasions  travel  heyond 
the  particular  persons  concerned,  except  so  far  as  is 
necessary  to  assure  himself  that  in  benefiting  them  he 
is  not  violating  the  rights,  that  is,  the  legitimate  and 
authorized  expectations,  of  any  one  else.  The  multi- 
plication of  happiness  is,  according  to  the  utilitarian 
ethics,  the  object  of  virtue  :  the  occasions  on  which 
any  person  (except  one  in  a  thousand)  has  it  in  his 
power  to  do  this  on  an  extended  scale,  in  .other  words 
to  be  a  public  benefactor,  are  but  exceptional ;  and  on 
these  occasions  alone  is  he  called  on  to  consider  public 
utility;  in  every  other  case,  private  utility,  the  interest 
or  happiness  of  some  few  persons,  is  all  he  has  to 
attend  to.  Those  alone  the  influence  of  whose  actions 
extends  to  society  in  general,  need  concern  themselves 
habitually  about  so  large  an  object.  In  the  case  of 
abstinences  indeed — of  things  which  people  forbear  to 
do  from  moral  considerations,  though  the  consequences 
in  the  particular  case  might  be  beneficial — it  would 
be  unworthy  of  an  intelligent  agent  not  to  be  con- 
sciously aware  that  the  action  is  of  a  class  which,  if 
practised  generally,  would  be  generally  injurious,  and 
that  this  is  the  ground  of  the  obligation  to  abstain  from 
it.  The  amount  of  regard  for  the  public  interest  im- 
plied in  this  recognition,  is  no  greater  than  is  demanded 
by  every  system  of  morals,  for  they  all  enjoin  to  abstain 
from  whatever  is  manifestly  pernicious  to  society. 

The  same  considerations  dispose  of  another  reproach 
against  the  doctrine  of  utility,  founded  on  a  still 
grosser  misconception  of  the  purpose  of  a  standard  of 
morality,  and  of  the  very  meaning  of  the  words  right 


and  wrong.  It  is  often  affirmed  that  utilitarianism 
renders  men  cold  and  unsympathizing ;  that  it  chills 
their  moral  feelings  towards  individuals  ;  that  it  makes 
them  regard  only  the  dry  and  hard  consideration  of 
the  consequences  of  actions,  not  taking  into  their 
moral  estimate  the  qualities  from  which  those  actions 
emanate.  If  the  assertion  means  that  they  do  not 
allow  their  judgment  respecting  the  rightness  or  wroiig- 
ness  of  an  action  to  be  influenced  by  their  opinion  of 
the  qualities  of  the  person  who  does  it,  this  is  a  com- 
plaint not  against  utilitarianism,  but  against  having 
any  standard  of  morality  at  all ;  for  certainly  no  known 
ethical  standard  decides  an  action  to  be  good  or  bad 
because  it  is  done  by  a  good  or  a  bad  man,  still  less 
because  done  by  an  amiable,  a  brave,  or  a  benevolent 
man,  or  the  contrary.  These  considerations  are  rele- 
vant, not  to  the  estimation  of  actions,  but  of  ^persons  ; 
and  there  is  nothing  in  the  utilitarian  theory  incon- 
sistent with  the  fact  that  there  are  other  things  which 
interest  us  in  persons  besides  the  rightness  and  wrong- 
ness  of  their  actions.  The  Stoics,  indeed,  with  the 
paradoxical  misuse  of  language  which  was  part  of  their 
system,  and  by  which  they  strove  to  raise  themselves 
above  all  concern  about  anything  but  virtue,  were  fond 
of  saying  that  he  who  has  that  has  everything ;  that 
he,  and  only  he,  is  rich,  is  beautiful,  is  a  king.  But 
no  claim  of  this  description  is  made  for  the  virtuous 
man  by  the  utilitarian  doctrine.  Utilitarians  are  quite 
aware  that  there  are  other  desirable  possessions  and 
qualities  besides  virtue,  and  are  perfectly  willing  to 
allow  to  all  of  them  their  full  worth.  They  are  also 
aware  that  a  right  action  does  not  necessarily  indicate 
a  virtuous  character,  and  that  actions  which  are  blame- 

ITS    MEANING.  29 

able,  often  proceed  from  qualities  entitled  to  praise. 
When  this  is  apparent  in  any  particular  case,  it  modifies 
their  estimation,  not  certainly  of  the  act,  but  of  the 
agent.  I  grant  that  they  are,  notwithstanding,  of 
opinion,  that  in  the  long  run  the  best  proof  of  a  good 
character  is  good  actions  ;  and  resolutely  refuse  to  con- 
sider any  mental  disposition  as  good,  of  which  the 
predominant  tendency  is  to  produce  bad  conduct. 
This  makes  them  unpopular  with  many  people ;  but 
it  is  an  unpopularity  which  they  must  share  with 
every  one  who  regards  the  distinction  between  right 
and  wrong  in  a  serious  light ;  and  the  reproach  is  not 
one  which  a  conscientious  utilitarian  need  be  anxious 
to  repel. 

If  no  more  be  meant  by  the  objection  than  that 
many  utilitarians  look  on  the  morality  of  actions,  as 
measured  by  the  utilitarian  standard,  with  too  exclu- 
sive a  regard,  and  do  not  lay  sufficient  stress  upon  the 
other  beauties  of  character  which  go  towards  making 
a  human  being  loveable  or  admirable,  this  may  be 
admitted.  Utilitarians  who  have  cultivated  their 
moral  feelings,  but  not  their  sympathies  nor  their 
artistic  perceptions,  do  fall  into  this  mistake ;  and  so 
do  all  other  moralists  under  the  same  conditions. 
What  can  be  said  in  excuse  for  other  moralists  is 
equally  available  for  them,  namely,  that  if  there  is  to 
be  any  error,  it  is  better  that  it  should  be  on  that  side. 
As  a  matter  of  fact,  we  may  affirm  that  among  utili- 
tarians as  among  adherents  of  other  systems,  there  is 
every  imaginable  degree  of  rigidity  and  of  laxity  in 
the  application  of  their  standard :  some  are  even  puri- 
tanically rigorous,  while  others  are  as  indulgent  as 
can  possibly  be  desired  by  sinner  or  by  sentimentalist. 


I>ui  on  the  vvliolc,  adoctrino  which  lyings  prominently 
forward  the  interest  that  mankind  have  in  the  n  - 
pression  and  prevention  of  conduct  which  violates  the 
moral  law,  is  likely  to  he  inferior  to  no  other  in  turning 
the  sanctions  of  opinion  against  such  violations.  It 
is  true,  the  question,  What  does  violate  the  moral 
law  ?  is  one  on  which  those  who  recognise  different 
standards  of  morality  are  likely  now  and  then  to 
differ.  But  difference  of  opinion  on  moral  questions  was 
not  first  introduced  into  the  world  hy  utilitarianism, 
\vliile  that  doctrine  does  supply,  if  not  always  an  easy, 
at  all  events  a  tangible  and  intelligible  mode  of  deciding 
such  differences. 

It  may  not  be  superfluous  to  notice  a  few  more  of 
the  common  misapprehensions  of  utilitarian  ethics, 
even  those  which  are  so  obvious  and  gross  that  it 
might  appear  impossible  for  any  person  of  candour 
and  intelligence  to  fall  into  them;  since  persons,  even 
of  considerable  mental  endowments,  often  give  them- 
selves so  little  trouble  to  understand  the  bearings  of 
any  opinion  against  which  they  entertain  a  prejudice, 
und  men  are  in  general  so  little  conscious  of  this 
voluntary  ignorance  as  a  defect,  that  the  vulgarest 
misunderstandings  of  ethical  doctrines  are  continually 
met  with  in  the  deliberate  writings  of  persons  of  the 
greatest  pretensions  both  to  high  principle  and  to  philo- 
sophy. We  not  uncommonly  hear  the  doctrine  of 
utility  inveighed  against  as  a  godless  doctrine.  If  it 
be  necessary  to  say  anything  at  all  against  so  mere  an 
assumption,  we  may  say  that  the  question  depends 
upon  what  idea  we  have  formed  of  the  moral  character 
of  the  Deity.  If  it  be  a  true,  belief  that  God  desires, 

ITS    MEANING.  31 

above  all  things,  the  happiness  of  his  creatures,  and 
that  this  was  his  purpose  in  their  creation,  utility  is 
not  only  not  a  godless  doctrine,  but  more  profoundly 
religious  than  any  other.  If  it  be  meant  that  utili- 
tarianism does  not  recognise  the  revealed  will  of  God 
as  the  supreme  law  of  morals,  I  answer,  that  an  utili- 
tarian who  believes  in  the  perfect  goodness  and  wisdom 
of  God,  necessarily  believes  that  whatever  God  has 
thought  fit  to  reveal  on  the  subject  of  morals,  must 
fulfil  the  requirements  of  utility  in  a  supreme  degree. 
But  others  besides  utilitarians  have  been  of  opinion 
that  the  Christian  revelation  was  intended,  and  is 
fitted,  to  inform  the  hearts  and  minds  of  mankind 
with  a  spirit  which  should  enable  them  to  find  for 
themselves  what  is  right,  and  incline  them  to  do  it 
when  found,  rather  than  to  tell  them,  except  in  a  very 
general  way,  what  it  is  ;  and  that  we  need  a  doctrine 
of  ethics,  carefully  followed  out,  to  interpret  to  us  the 
will  of  God.  Whether  this  opinion  is  correct  or  not, 
it  is  superfluous  here  to  discuss  ;  since  whatever  aid 
religion,  either  natural  or  revealed,  can  afford  to  ethical 
investigation,  is  as  open  to  the  utilitarian  moralist  as 
to  any  other.  He  can  use  it  as  the  testimony  of  God  to 
the  usefulness  or  hurtfulness  of  any  given  course  of 
action,  by  as  good  a  right  as  others  can  use  it  for  the 
indication  of  a  transcendental  law,  having  no  connexion 
with  usefulness  or  with  happiness. 

Again,  Utility  is  often  summarily  stigmatized  as  an 
immoral  doctrine  by  giving  it  the  name  of  Expediency, 
and  taking  advantage  of  the  popular  use  of  that  term 
to  contrast  it  with  Principle.  But  the  Expedient,  in 
the  sense  in  which  it  is  opposed  to  the  Eight,  gene- 
rally means  that  which  is  expedient  for  the  particular 


interest  of  the  agent  himself;  as  when  a  Minister 
sacrifices  the  interests  of  his  country  to  keep  himself 
in  place.  "When  it  means  anything  better  than  this, 
it  means  that  which  is  expedient  for  some  immediate 
object,  some  temporary  purpose,  but  which  violates  a 
rule  whose  observance  is  expedient  in  a  much  higher 
degree.  The  Expedient,  in  this  sense,  instead  of  being 
the  same  thing  with  the  useful,  is  a  branch  of  the 
hurtful.  Thus,  it  would  often  be  expedient,  for  the 
purpose  of  getting  over  some  momentary  embarrass- 
ment, or  attaining  some  object  immediately  useful  to 
ourselves  or  others,  to  tell  a  lie.  But  inasmuch  as 
the  cultivation  in  ourselves  of  a  sensitive  feeling  on 
the  subject  of  veracity,  is  one  of  the  most  useful,  and 
the  enfeeblement  of  that  feeling  one  of  the  most 
hurtful,  things  to  which  our  conduct  can  be  instru- 
mental; and  inasmuch  as  any,  even  unintentional, 
deviation  from  truth,  does  that  much  towards  weaken- 
ing the  trustworthiness  of  human  assertion,  which  is 
not  only  the  principal  support  of  all  present  social 
well-being,  but  the  insufficiency  of  which  .does  more 
than  any  one  thing  that  can  be  named  to  keep  back 
civilization,  virtue,  everything  on  which  human  hap- 
piness on  the  largest  scale  depends ;  we  feel  that  the 
violation,  for  a  present  advantage,  of  a  rule  of  such 
transcendant  expediency,  is  not  expedient,  and  that  he 
who,  for  the  sake  of  a  convenience  to  himself  or  to  some 
other  individual,  does  what  depends  on  him  to  deprive 
mankind  of  the  good,  and  inflict  upon  them  the  evil, 
involved  in  the  greater  or  less  reliance  which  they  can 
place  in  each  other's  word,  acts  the  part  of  one  of  their 
worst  enemies.  Tet  that  even  this  rule,  sacred  as  it  is, 
admits  of  possible  exceptions,  is  acknowledged  by  all 

ITS    MEANING.  33 

moralists  ;  the  chief  of  which  is  when  the  withholding 
of  some  fact  (as  of  information  from  a  malefactor,  or 
of  bad  news  from  a  person  dangerously  ill)  would  save 
an  individual  (especially  an  individual  other  than 
oneself)  from  great  and  unmerited  evil,  and  when  the 
withholding  can  only  be  effected  by  denial.  But  in 
order  that  the  exception  may  not  extend  itself  beyond 
the  need,  and  may  have  the  least  possible  effect  in 
weakening  reliance  on  veracity,  it  ought  to  be  recog- 
nized, and,  if  possible,  its  limits  defined ;  and  if  the 
principle  of  utility  is  good  for  anything,  it  must  be 
good  for  weighing  these  conflicting  utilities  against 
one  another,  and  marking  out  the  region  within  which 
one  or  the  other  preponderates. 

Again,  defenders  of  utility  often  find  themselves 
called  upon  to  reply  to  such  objections  as  this — that 
there  is  not  time,  previous  to  action,  for  calculating 
and  weighing  the  effects  of  any  line  of  conduct  on  the 
general  happiness.  This  is  exactly  as  if  any  one  were 
to  say  that  it  is  impossible  to  guide  our  conduct  by 
Christianity,  because  there  is  not  time,  on  every  occa- 
sion on  which  anything  has  to  be  done,  to  read  through 
the  Old  and  New  Testaments.  The  answer  to  the 
objection  is,  that  there  has  been  ample  time,  namely, 
the  whole  past  duration  of  the  human  species.  Dur- 
ing all  that  time  mankind  have  been  learning  by  ex- 
perience the  tendencies  of  actions ;  on  which  experi- 
ence all  the  prudence,  as  well  as  all  the  morality  of 
life,  are  dependent.  People  talk  as  if  the  commence- 
ment of  this  course  of  experience  had  hitherto  been 
put  off,  and  as  if,  at  the  moment  when  some  man  feels 
tempted  to  meddle  with  the  property  or  life  of  another, 
he  had  to  begin  considering  for  the  first  time  whether 



murder  and  theft  are  injurious  to  liuman  happiness. 
Even  then  I  do  not  think  that  he  would  find  the 
question  very  puzzling ;  but,  at  all  events,  the  matter 
is  now  done  to  his  hand.  It  is  truly  a  whimsical 
supposition  that  if  mankind  were  agreed  in  consider- 
ing utility  to  be  the  test  of  morality,  they  would 
remain  without  any  agreement  as  to  what  is  useful, 
and  would  take  no  measures  for  having  their  notions 
on  the  subject  taught  to  the  young,  and  enforced  by 
law  and  opinion.  There  is  no  difficulty  in  proving 
any  ethical  standard  whatever  to  work  ill,  if  we  sup- 
pose universal  idiocy  to  be  conjoined  with  it ;  but  on 
any  hypothesis  short  of  that,  mankind  must  by  this 
time  have  acquired  positive  beliefs  as  to  the  effects  of 
some  actions  on  their  happiness ;  and  the  beliefs 
which  have  thus  come  down  are  the  rules  of  morality 
for  the  multitude,  and  for  the  philosopher  until  he 
has  succeeded  in  finding  better.  That  philosophers 
might  easily  do  this,  even  now,  on  many  subjects ; 
that  the  received  code  of  ethics  is  by  no  means  of 
divine  right ;  and  that  mankind  have  still  much  to 
learn  as  to  the  effects  of  actions  on  the  general  happi- 
ness, I  admit,  or  rather,  earnestly  maintain.  The 
corollaries  from  the  principle  of  utility,  like  the  pre- 
cepts of  every  practical  art,  admit  of  indefinite  improve- 
ment, and,  in  a  progressive  state  of  the  human  mind, 
their  improvement  is  perpetually  going  on.  But  to  con- 
sider the  rules  of  morality  as  improvable,  is  one  thing ; 
to  pass  over  the  intermediate  generalizations  entirely, 
and  endeavour  to  test  each  individual  action  directly 
by  the  first  principle,  is  another.  It  is  a  strange 
notion  that  the  acknowledgment  of  a  first  principle  is 
inconsistent  with  the  admission  of  secondary  ones. 

ITS    MEANING.  35 

To  inform  a  traveller  respecting  the  place  of  his  ulti- 
mate destination,  is  not  to  forbid  the  use  of  land- 
marks and  direction-posts  on  the  way.  The  proposi- 
tion that  happiness  is  the  end  and  aim  of  morality, 
does  not  mean  that  no  road  ought  to  be  laid  down  to 
that  goal,  or  that  persons  going  thither  should  not  be 
advised  to  take  one  direction  rather  than  another. 
Men  really  ought  to  leave  off  talking  a  kind  of  non- 
sense on  this  subject,  which  they  would  neither  talk 
nor  listen  to  on  other  matters  of  practical  concernment. 
Nobody  argues  that  the  art  of  navigation  is  not 
founded  on  astronomy,  because  sailors  cannot  wait  to 
calculate  the  Nautical  Almanack.  Being  rational  crea- 
tures, they  go  to  sea  with  it  ready  calculated  ;  and  all 
rational  creatures  go  out  upon  the  sea  of  life  with 
their  minds  made  up  on  the  common  questions  of 
right  and  wrong,  as  well  as  on  many  of  the  far  more 
difficult  questions  of  wise  and  foolish.  And  this,  as 
long  as  foresight  is  a  human  quality,  it  is  to  be  pre- 
sumed they  will  continue  to  do.  Whatever  we  adopt 
as  the  fundamental  principle  of  morality,  we  require 
subordinate  principles  to  apply  it  by ;  the  impossi- 
bility of  doing  without  them,  being  common  to  all 
systems,  can  afford  no  argument  against  any  one  in 
particular ;  but  gravely  to  argue  as  if  no  such  secondary 
principles  could  be  had,  and  as  if  mankind  had  re- 
mained till  now,  and  always  must  remain,  without 
drawing  any  general  conclusions  from  the  experience 
of  human  life,  is  as  high  a  pitch,  I  think,  as  absur- 
dity has  ever  reached  in  philosophical  controversy. 

The  remainder  of  the  stock  arguments  against 
utilitarianism  mostly  consist  in  laying  to  its  charge 
the  common  infirmities  of  human  nature,  and  the 

D  2 


general  difficulties  which  embarrass  conscientious 
persons  in  shaping  their  course  through  life.  We  are 
told  that  an  utilitarian  will  be  apt  to  make  his  own 
particular  case  an  exception  to  moral  rules,  and,  when 
under  temptation,  will  see  an  utility  in  the  breach  of 
a  rule,  greater  than  he  will  see  in  its  observance. 
But  is  utility  the  only  creed  which  is  able  to  furnish 
us  with  excuses  for  evil  doing,  and  means  of  cheating 
our  own  conscience  ?  They  are  afforded  in  abundance 
by  all  doctrines  which  recognise  as  a  fact  in  morals 
the  existence  of  conflicting  considerations ;  which  all 
doctrines  do,  that  have  been  believed  by  sane  persons. 
It  is  not  the  fault  of  any  creed,  but  of  the  complicated 
nature  of  human  affairs,  that  rules  of  conduct  cannot 
be  so  framed  as  to  .require  no  exceptions,  and  that 
hardly  any  kind  of  action  can  safely  be  laid  down 
as  either  always  obligatory  or  always  condefnnable. 
There  is  no  ethical  creed  which  does  not  temper  the 
rigidity  of  its  laws,  by  giving  a  certain  latitude,  under 
the  moral  responsibility  of  the  agent,  for  accommoda- 
tion to  peculiarities  of  circumstances ;  and  under  every 
creed,  at  the  opening  thus  made,  self-deception  and 
dishonest  casuistry  get  in.  There  exists  no  moral 
system  under  which  there  do  not  arise  unequivocal 
cases  of  conflicting  obligation.  These  are  the  real 
difficulties,  the  knotty  points  both  in  the  theory  of 
ethics,  and  in  the  conscientious  guidance  of  personal 
conduct.  They  are  overcome  practically  with  greater 
or  with  less  success  according  to  the  intellect  and 
virtue  of  the  individual;  but  it  can  hardly  be  pre- 
tended that  any  one  will  be  the  less  qualified  for 
dealing  with  them,  from  possessing  an  ultimate  stan- 
dard to  which  conflicting  rights  and  duties  can  be 

ITS    MEANING.  37 

referred.  If  utility  is  the  ultimate  source  of  moral 
obligations,  utility  may  be  invoked  to  decide  between 
them  when  their  demands  are  incompatible.  Though 
the  application  of  the  standard  may  be  difficult,  it  is 
better  than  none  at  all :  while  in  other  systems,  the 
moral  laws  all  claiming  independent  authority,  there 
is  no  common  umpire  entitled  to  interfere  between 
them ;  their  claims  to  precedence  one  over  another 
rest  on  little  better  than  sophistry,  and  unless  deter- 
mined, as  they  generally  are,  by  the  unacknowledged 
influence  of  considerations  of  utility,  afford  a  free 
scope  for  the  action  of  personal  desires  and  partialities. 
We  must  remember  that  only  in  these  cases  of  conflict 
between  secondary  principles  is  it  requisite  that  first 
principles  should  be  appealed  to.  There  is  no  case  of 
moral  obligation  in  which  some  secondary  principle  is 
not  involved ;  and  if  only  one,  there  can  seldom  be 
any  real  doubt  which  one  it  is,  in  the  mind  of  any 
person  by  whom  the  principle  itself  is  recognised. 




rPHE  question  is  often  asked,  and  properly  so,  in 

•*•    regard  to  any  supposed  moral  standard  —  What  is 

its  sanction  ?   what  are  the  motives  to  obey  it  ?  or 

more  specifically,  what  is  the  source  of  its  obligation  ? 

whence  does  it  derive  its  binding  force?      It  is   a 

necessary  part  of  moral  philosophy  to   provide   the 

answer  to  this  question;    which,  though  frequently 

assuming  the  shape  of  an  objection  to  the  utilitarian 

morality,  as  if  it  had  some  special  applicability  to  that 

above  others,  really  arises  in  regard  to  all  standards. 

It  arises,  in  fact,  whenever  a  person  is  called  on  to 

adopt  a  standard,   or  refer  morality  to  any  basis  on 

which  he  has  not  been  accustomed  to  rest  it.    For  the 

customary  morality,  that  which  education  and  opinion 

have  consecrated,  is  the  only  one  which  presents  itself 

to  the  mind  with  the  feeling  of  being  in  itself  obli- 

gatory ;  and  when  a  person  is  asked  to  believe  that 

this  morality  derives  its  obligation  from  some  general 

principle  round  which  custom  has  not   thrown   the 

same  halo,  the  assertion  is  to  him  a  paradox  ;    the 

supposed  corollaries  seem  to  have  a  more  binding  force 

than  the  original  theorem  ;  the  superstructure  seems 

to  stand  better  without,  than  with,  what  is  represented 

as  its  foundation.     He  says  to  himself,  I  feel  that  I 


am  bound  not  to  rob  or  murder,  betray  or  deceive ; 
but  why  am  I  bound  to  promote  the  general  happi- 
ness ?  If  my  own  happiness  lies  in  something  else, 
why  may  I  not  give  that  the  preference  ? 

If  the  view  adopted  by  the  utilitarian  philosophy 
of  the  nature  of  the  moral  sense  be  correct,  this 
difficulty  will  always  present  itself,  until  the  influences 
which  form  moral  character  have  taken  the  same  hold 
of  the  principle  which  they  have  taken  of  some  of  the 
consequences — until,  by  the  improvement  of  educa- 
tion, the  feeling  of  unity  with  our  fellow-creatures 
shall  be  (what  it  cannot  be  denied  that  Christ  in- 
tended it  to  be)  as  deeply  rooted  in  our  character,  and 
to  our  own  consciousness  as  completely  a  part  of  our 
nature,  as  the  horror  of  crime  is  in  an  ordinarily  well 
brought  up  young  person.  In  the  mean  time,  how- 
ever, the  difficulty  has  no  peculiar  application  to  the 
doctrine  of  utility,  but  is  inherent  in  every  attempt  to 
analyse  morality  and  reduce  it  to  principles ;  which, 
unless  the  principle  is  already  in  men's  minds  invested 
with  as  much  sacredness  as  any  of  its  applications, 
always  seems  to  divest  them  of  a  part  of  their 

The  principle  of  utility  either  has,  or  there  is  no 
reason  why  it  might  not  have,  all  the  sanctions  which 
belong  to  any  other  system  of  morals.  Those  sanc- 
tions are  either  external  or  internal.  Of  the  external 
sanctions  it  is  not  necessary  to  speak  at  any  length. 
They  are,  the  hope  of  favour  and  the  fear  of  displea- 
sure from  our  fellow  creatures  or  from  the  Huler  of 
the  Universe,  along  with  whatever  we  may  have  of 
sympathy  or  affection  for  them,  or  of  love  and  awe  of 
Him,  inclining  us  to  do  his  will  independently  of 


selfish  consequences.  There  is  evidently  no  reason 
why  all  these  motives  for  observance  should  not 
attach  themselves  to  the  utilitarian  morality,  as  com- 
pletely and  as  powerfully  as  to  any  other.  Indeed, 
those  of  them  which  refer  to  our  fellow  creatures  are 
sure  to  do  so,  in  proportion  to  the  amount  of  general 
intelligence ;  for  whether  there  he  any  other  ground 
of  moral  obligation  than  the  general  happiness  or 
not,  men  do  desire  happiness  ;  and  however  imperfect 
may  be  their  own  practice,  they  desire  and  commend 
all  conduct  in  others  towards  themselves,  by  which 
they  think  their  happiness  is  promoted.  With  regard 
to  the  religious  motive,  if  men  believe,  as  most  profess 
to  do,  in  the  goodness  of  God,  those  who  think  that 
conduciveness  to  the  general  happiness  is  the  essence, 
or  even  only  the  criterion  of  good,  must  necessarily 
believe  that  it  is  also  that  which  God  approves. 
The  whole  force  therefore  of  external  reward  and 
punishment,  whether  physical  or  moral,  and  whether 
proceeding  from  God  or  from  our  fellow  men,  together 
with  all  that  the  capacities  of  human  nature  admit, 
of  disinterested  devotion  to  either,  become  available  to 
enforce  the  utilitarian  morality,  in  proportion  as  that 
morality  is  recognized  ;  and  the  more  powerfully,  the 
more  the  appliances  of  education  and  general  cultiva- 
tion are  bent  to  the  purpose. 

So  far  as  to  external  sanctions.  The  internal  sanc- 
tion of  duty,  whatever  our  standard  of  duty  may  be, 
is  one  and  the  same — a  feeling  in  our  own  mind ;  a 
pain,  more  or  less  intense,  attendant  on  violation  of 
duty,  which  in  properly  cultivated  moral  natures  rises, 
in  the  more  serious  cases,  into  shrinking  from  it  as  an 
impossibility.  This  feeling,  when  disinterested,  and 


connecting  itself  with  the  pure  idea  of  duty,  and  not 
with  some  particular  form  of  it,  or  with  any  of  the 
merely  accessory  circumstances,  is  the  essence  of  Con- 
science; though  in  that  complex  phenomenon  as  it 
actually  exists,  the  simple  fact  is  in  general  all  en- 
crusted over  with  collateral  associations,  derived  from 
sympathy,  from  love,  and  still  more  from  fear ;  from 
all  the  forms  of  religious  feeling  •  from  the  recollec- 
tions of  childhood  and  of  all  our  past  life  ;  from  self- 
esteem,  desire  of  the  esteem  of  others,  arid  occasionally 
even  self-abasement.  This  extreme  complication  is,  I 
apprehend,  the  origin  of  the  sort  of  mystical  character 
which,  by  a  tendency  of  the  human  mind  of  which 
there  are  many  other  examples,  is  apt  to  be  attributed 
to  the  idea  of  moral  obligation,  and  which  leads  people 
to  believe  that  the  idea  cannot  possibly  attach  itself 
to  any  other  objects  than  those  which,  by  a  supposed 
mysterious  law,  are  found  in  our  present  experience  to 
excite  it.  Its  binding  force,  however,  consists  in  the 
existence  of  a  mass  of  feeling  which  must  be  broken 
through  in  order  to  do  what  violates  our  standard  of 
right,  and  which,  if  we  do  nevertheless  violate  that 
standard,  will  probably  have  to  be  encountered  after- 
wards in  the  form  of  remorse.  Whatever  theory  we 
have  of  the  nature  or  origin  of  conscience,  this  is  what 
essentially  constitutes  it. 

The  ultimate  sanction,  therefore,  of  all  morality 
(external  motives  apart)  being  a  subjective  feeling  in 
our  own  minds,  I  see  nothing  embarrassing  to  those 
whose  standard  is  utility,  in  the  question,  what  is  the 
sanction  of  that  particular  standard  ?  We  may  answer, 
the  same  as  of  all  other  moral  standards — the  con- 
scientious feelings  of  mankind.  Undoubtedly  this 


sanction  has  no  binding  efficacy  on  those  who  do  not 
possess  the  feelings  it  appeals  to  ;  but  neither  will 
these  persons  be  more  obedient  to  any  other  moral 
principle  than  to  the  utilitarian  one.  On  them 
morality  of  any  kind  has  no  hold  but  through  the 
external  sanctions.  Meanwhile  the  feelings  exist,  a 
fact  in  human  nature,  the  reality  of  which,  and  the 
great  power  with  which  they  are  capable  of  acting  on 
those  in  whom  they  have  been  duly  cultivated,  are 
proved  by  experience.  No  reason  has  ever  been 
shown  why  they  may  not  be  cultivated  to  as  great  in- 
tensity in  connexion  with  the  utilitarian,  as  with  any 
other  rule  of  morals. 

There  is,  I  am  aware,  a  disposition  to  believe  that 
a  person  who  sees  in  moral  obligation  a  transcendental 
fact,  an  objective  reality  belonging  to  the  province  of 
'  Things  in  themselves/  is  likely  to  be  more  obedient 
to  it  than  one  who  believes  it  to  be  entirely  subjective, 
having  its  seat  in  human  consciousness  only.  But 
whatever  a  person's  opinion  may  be  on  this  point  of 
Ontology,  the  force  he  is  really  urged  by  is  his  own 
subjective  feeling,  and  is  exactly  measured  by  its 
strength.  No  one's  belief  that  Duty  is  an  objective 
reality  is  stronger  than  the  belief  that  God  is  so ;  yet 
the  belief  in  Grod,  apart  from  the  expectation  of  actual 
reward  and  punishment,  only  operates  on  conduct 
through,  and  in  proportion  to,  the  subjective  religious 
feeling.  The  sanction,  so  far  as  it  is  disinterested,  is 
always  in  the  mind  itself;  and  the  notion  therefore 
of  the  transcendental  moralists  must  be,  that  this 
sanction  will  not  exist  in  the  mind  unless  it  is  believed 
to  have  its  root  out  of  the  mind ;  and  that  if  a  person 
is  able  to  say  to  himself,  This  which  is  restraining  me, 


and  which  is  called  my  conscience,  is  only  a  feeling  in 
my  own  mind,  he  may  possibly  draw  the  conclusion 
that  when  the  feeling  ceases  the  obligation  ceases,  and 
that  if  he  find  the  feeling  inconvenient,  he  may  dis- 
regard it,  and  endeavour  to  get  rid  of  it.  But  is  this 
danger  confined  to  the  utilitarian  morality?  Does 
the  belief  that  moral  obligation  has  its  seat  outside 
the  mind  make  the  feeling  of  it  too  strong  to  be  got 
rid  of?  The  fact  is  so  far  otherwise,  that  all  moralists 
admit  and  lament  the  ease  with  which,  in  the  gene- 
rality of  minds,  conscience  can  be  silenced  or  stifled. 
The  question,  Need  I  obey  my  conscience  ?  is  quite 
as  often  put  to  themselves  by  persons  who  never  heard 
of  the  principle  of  utility,  as  by  its  adherents.  Those 
whose  conscientious  feelings  are  so  weak  as  to  allow 
of  their  asking  this  question,  if  they  answer  it  affirma- 
tively, will  not  do  so  because  they  believe  in  the 
transcendental  theory,  but  because  of  the  external 

It  is  not  necessary,  for  the  present  purpose,  to  decide 
whether  the  feeling  of  duty  is  innate  or  implanted. 
Assuming  it  to  be  innate,  it  is  an  open  question  to 
what  objects  it  naturally  attaches  itself;  for  the 
philosophic  supporters  of  that  theory  are  now  agreed 
that  the  intuitive  perception  is  of  principles  of  morality, 
and  not  of  the  details.  If  there  be  anything  innate 
in  the  matter,  I  see  no  reason  why  the  feeling  which 
is  innate  should  not  be  that  of  regard  to  the  pleasures 
and  pains  of  others.  If  there  is  any  principle  of  morals 
which  is  intuitively  obligatory,  I  should  say  it  must 
be  that.  If  so,  the  intuitive  ethics  would  coincide 
with  the  utilitarian,  and  there  would  be  no  further 
quarrel  between  them.  Even  as  it  is,  the  intuitive 


moralists,  though  they  believe  that  there  are  other 
intuitive  moral  obligations,  do  already  believe  this  to 
be  one ;  for  they  unanimously  hold  that  a  large  portion 
of  morality  turns  upon  the  consideration  due  to  the 
interests  of  our  fellow  creatures.  Therefore,  if  the 
belief  in  the  transcendental  origin  of  moral  obligation 
gives  any  additional  efficacy  to  the  internal  sanction, 
it  appears  to  me  that  the  utilitarian  principle  has 
already  the  benefit  of  it. 

On  the  other  hand,  if,  as  is  my  own  belief,  the  moral 
feelings  are  not  innate,  but  acquired,  they  are  not  for 
that  reason  the  less  natural.  It  is  natural  to  man  to 
speak,  to  reason,  to  build  cities,  to  cultivate  the 
ground,  though  these  are  acquired  faculties.  The 
moral  feelings  are  not  indeed  a  part  of  our  nature,  in 
the  sense  of  being  in  any  perceptible  degree  present 
in  all  of  us ;  but  this,  unhappily,  is  a  fact  admitted 
by  those  who  believe  the  most  strenuously  in  their 
transcendental  origin.  Like  the  other  acquired  capa- 
cities above  referred  to,  the  moral  faculty,  if  not  a 
part  of  our  nature,  is  a  natural  outgrowth  from  it; 
capable,  like  them,  in  a  certain  small  degree,  of  spring- 
ing up  spontaneously;  and  susceptible  of  being  brought 
by  cultivation  to  a  high  degree  of  development. 
Unhappily  it  is  also  susceptible,  by  a  sufficient  use  of 
the  external  sanctions  and  of  the  force  of  early  im- 
pressions, of  being  cultivated  in  almost  any  direction : 
so  that  there  is  hardly  anything  so  absurd  or  so  mis- 
chievous that  it  may  not,  by  means  of  these  influences, 
be  made  to  act  on  the  human  mind  with  all  the 
authority  of  conscience.  To  doubt  that  the  same 
potency  might  be  given  by  the  same  means  to  the 
principle  of  utility,  even  if  it  had  no  foundation  in 


human  nature,  would  be  flying   in  the  face  of  all 

But  moral  associations  which  are  wholly  of  artificial 
creation,  when  intellectual  culture  goes  on,  yield  by 
degrees  to  the  dissolving  force  of  analysis  :  and  if  the 
feeling  of  duty,  when  associated  with  utility,  would 
appear  equally  arbitrary;  if  there  were  no  leading 
department  of  our  nature,  no  powerful  class  of  senti- 
ments, with  which  that  association  would  harmonize, 
which  would  make  us  feel  it  congenial,  and  incline  us 
not  only  to  foster  it  in  others  (for  which  we  have 
abundant  interested  motives),  but  also  to  cherish  it  in 
ourselves ;  if  there  were  not,  in  short,  a  natural  basis 
of  sentiment  for  utilitarian  morality,  it  might  well 
happen  that  this  association  also,  even  after  it  had 
been  implanted  by  education,  might  be  analysed 

But  there  is  this  basis  of  powerful  natural  senti- 
ment ;  and  this  it  is  which,  when  once  the  general 
happiness  is  recognised  as  the  ethical  standard,  will 
constitute  the  strength  of  the  utilitarian  morality. 
This  firm  foundation  is  that  of  the  social  feelings  of 
mankind ;  the  desire  to  be  in  unity  with  our  fellow 
creatures,  which  is  already  a  powerful  principle  in 
human  nature,  and  happily  one  of  those  which  tend 
to  become  stronger,  even  without  express  inculcation, 
from  the  influences  of  advancing  civilization.  The 
social  state  is  at  once  so  natural,  so  necessary,  and  so 
habitual  to  man,  that,  except  in  some  unusual  circum- 
stances or  by  an  effort  of  voluntary  abstraction,  he 
never  conceives  himself  otherwise  than  as  a  member 
of  a  body ;  and  this  association  is  rivetted  more  and 
more,  as  mankind  are  further  removed  from  the  state 


of  savage  independence.  Any  condition,  therefore, 
which  is  essential  to  a  state  of  society,  becomes  more 
and  more  an  inseparable  part  of  every  person's  con- 
ception of  the  state  of  things  which  he  is  born  into, 
and  which  is  the  destiny  of  a  human  being.  Now, 
society  between  human  beings,  except  in  the  relation 
of  master  and  slave,  is  manifestly  impossible  on  any 
other  footing  than  that  the  interests  of  all  are  to  be 
consulted.  Society  between  equals  can  only  exist  on 
the  understanding  that  the  interests  of  all  are  to  be 
regarded  equally.  And  since  in  all  states  of  civiliza- 
tion, every  person,  except  an  absolute  monarch,  has 
equals,  every  one  is  obliged  to  live  on  these  terms 
with  somebody;  and  in  every  age  some  advance  is 
made  towards  a  state  in  which  it  will  be  impossible  to 
live  permanently  on  other  terms  with  anybody.  In 
this  way  people  grow  up  unable  to  conceive  as  possible 
to  them  a  state  of  total  disregard  of  other  people's 
interests.  They  are  under  a  necessity  of  conceiving 
themselves  as  at  least  abstaining  from  all  the  grosser 
injuries,  and  (if  only  for  their  own  protection)  living 
in  a  state  of  constant  protest  against  them.  They  are 
also  familiar  with  the  fact  of  co-operating  with  others, 
and  proposing  to  themselves  a  collective,  not  an  indi- 
vidual interest  as  the  aim  (at  least  for  the  time  being) 
of  their  actions.  So  long  as  they  are  co-operating, 
their  ends  are  identified  with  those  of  others ;  there 
is  at  least  a  temporary  feeling  that  the  interests  of 
others  are  their  own  interests.  Not  only  does  all 
strengthening  of  social  ties,  and  all  healthy  growth  of 
society,  give  to  each  individual  a  stronger  personal 
interest  in  practically  consulting  the  welfare  of  others; 
it  also  leads  him  to  identify  his  feelings  more  and  more 


with  their  good,  or  at  least  with  an  ever  greater 
degree  of  practical  consideration  for  it.  He  comes,  as 
though  instinctively,  to  be  conscious  of  himself  as  a 
being  who  of  course  pays  regard  to  others.  The  good 
of  others  becomes  to  him  a  thing  naturally  and  neces- 
sarily to  be  attended  to,  like  any  of  the  physical  con- 
ditions of  our  existence.  Now,  whatever  amount  of 
this  feeling  a  person  has,  he  is  urged  by  the  strongest 
motives  both  of  interest  and  of  sympathy  to  demon- 
strate it,  and  to  the  utmost  of  his  power  encourage  it 
in  others ;  and  even  if  he  has  none  of  it  himself,  he  is 
as  greatly  interested  as  any  one  else  that  others  should 
have  it.  Consequently  the  smallest  germs  of  the 
feeling  are  laid  hold  of  and  nourished  by  the  contagion 
of  sympathy  and  the  influences  of  education;  and  a 
complete  web  of  corroborative  association  is  woven 
round  it,  by  the  powerful  agency  of  the  external 
sanctions.  This  mode  of  conceiving  ourselves  and 
human  life,  as  civilization  goes  on,  is  felt  to  be  more 
and  more  natural.  Every  step  in  political  improve- 
ment renders  it  more  so,  by  removing  the  sources  of 
opposition  of  interest,  and  levelling  those  inequalities 
of  legal  privilege  between  individuals  or  classes,  owing 
to  which  there  are  large  portions  of  mankind  whose 
happiness  it  is  still  practicable  to  disregard.  In  an 
improving  state  of  the  human  mind,  the  influences  are 
constantly  on  the  increase,  which  tend  to  generate  in 
each  individual  a  feeling  of  unity  with  all  the  rest ; 
which,  if  perfect,  would  make  him  never  think  of,  or 
desire,  any  beneficial  condition  for  himself,  in  the 
benefits  of  which  they  are  not  included.  If  we  now 
suppose  this  feeling  of  unity  to  be  taught  as  a  religion, 
and  the  whole  force  of  education,  of  institutions,  and 


of  opinion,  directed,  as  it  once  was  in  the  case  of 
religion,  to  make  every  person  grow  up  from  infancy 
surrounded  on  all  sides  both  by  the  profession  and 
the  practice  of  it,  I  think  that  no  one,  who  can  realize 
this  conception,  will  feel  any  misgiving  about  the 
sufficiency  of  the  ultimate  sanction  for  the  Happiness 
morality.  To  any  ethical  student  who  finds  the 
realization  difficult,  I  recommend,  as  a  means  of 
facilitating  it,  the  second  of  M.  Comte's  two  principal 
works,  the  Traite  de  Politique  Positive.  I  entertain 
the  strongest  objections  to  the  system  of  politics  and 
morals  set  forth  in  that  treatise ;  but  I  think  it  has 
superabundantly  shown  the  possibility  of  giving  to 
the  service  of  humanity,  even  without  the  aid  of  belief 
in  a  Providence,  both  the  psychological  power  and 
the  social  efficacy  of  a  religion ;  making  it  take  hold 
of  human  life,  and  colour  all  thought,  feeling,  and 
action,  in  a  manner  of  which  the  greatest  ascendancy 
ever  exercised  by  any  religion  may  be  but  a  type  and 
foretaste  ;  and  of  which  the  danger  is,  not  that  it 
should  be  insufficient,  but  that  it  should  be  so  exces- 
sive as  to  interfere  unduly  with  human  freedom  and 

Neither  is  it  necessary  to  the  feeling  which  consti- 
tutes the  binding  force  of  the  utilitarian  morality  on 
those  who  recognise  it,  to  wait  for  those  social  influ- 
ences which  would  make  its  obligation  felt  by  mankind 
at  large.  In  the  comparatively  early  state  of  human 
advancement  in  which  we  now  live,  a  person  cannot 
indeed  feel  that  entireness  of  sympathy  with  all 
others,  which  would  make  any  real  discordance  in  the 
general  direction  of  their  conduct  in  life  impossible ; 
but  already  a  person  in  whom  the  social  feeling  is  at 


all  developed,  cannot  bring  himself  to  think  of  the  rest 
of  his  fellow  creatures  as  struggling  rivals  with  him 
for  the  means  of  happiness,  whom  he  must  desire  to 
see  defeated  in  their  object  in  order  that  he  may 
succeed  in  his.  The  deeply  rooted  conception  which 
every  individual  even  now  has  of  himself  as  a  social 
being,  tends  to  make  him  feel  it  one  of  his  natural 
wants  that  there  should  be  harmony  between  his 
feelings  and  aims  and  those  of  his  fellow  creatures. 
If  differences  of  opinion  and  of  mental  culture  make 
it  impossible  for  him  to  share  many  of  their  actual 
feelings — perhaps  make  him  denounce  and  defy  those 
feelings — he  still  needs  to  be  conscious  that  his  real 
aim  and  theirs  do  not  conflict ;  that  he  is  not  opposing 
himself  to  what  they  really  wish  for,  namely  their  own 
good,  but  is,  on  the  contrary,  promoting  it.  This 
feeling  in  most  individuals  is  much  inferior  in  strength 
to  their  selfish  feelings,  and  is  often  wanting  alto- 
gether. But  to  those  who  have  it,  it  possesses  all  the 
characters  of  a  natural  feeling.  It  does  not  present 
itself  to  their  minds  as  a  superstition  of  education,  or 
a  law  despotically  imposed  by  the  power  of  society, 
but  as  an  attribute  which  it  would  not  be  well  for 
them  to  be  without.  This  conviction  is  the  ultimate 
sanction  of  the  greatest  happiness  morality.  This  it 
is  which  makes  any  mind,  of  well  developed  feelings, 
work  with,  and  not  against,  the  outward  motives  to 
care  for  others,  afforded  by  what  I  have  called  the  ex- 
ternal sanctions ;  and  when  those  sanctions  are 
wanting,  or  act  in  an  opposite  direction,  constitutes 
in  itself  a  powerful  internal  binding  force,  in  propor- 
tion to  the  sensitiveness  and  thoughtfulness  of  the 



character ;  since  few  but  those  whose  mind  is  a  moral 
blank,  could  bear  to  lay  out  their  course  of  life  on  the 
plan  of  paying  no  regard  to  others  except  so  far  as 
their  own  private  interest  compels. 




IT  has  already  been  remarked,  that  questions  of 
ultimate  ends  do  not  admit  of  proof,  in  the  ordinary 
acceptation  of  the  term.  To  be  incapable  of  proof  by 
reasoning  is  common  to  all  first  principles;  to  the 
first  premises  of  our  knowledge,  as  well  as  to  those  of 
our  conduct.  But  the  former,  being  matters  of  fact, 
may  be  the  subject  of  a  direct  appeal  to  the  faculties 
which  judge  of  fact — namely,  our  senses,  and  our  in- 
ternal consciousness.  Can  an  appeal  be  made  to  the 
same  faculties  on  questions  of  practical  ends  ?  Or  by 
what  other  faculty  is  cognizance  taken  of  them  ? 

Questions  about  ends  are,  in  other  words,  questions 
what  things  are  desirable.  The  utilitarian  doctrine 
is,  that  happiness  is  desirable,  and  the  only  thing  de- 
sirable, as  an  end ;  all  other  things  being  only  desir- 
able as  means  to  that  end.  What  ought  to  be  required 
of  this  doctrine — what  conditions  is  it  requisite  that 
the  doctrine  should  fulfil — to  make  good  its  claim  to 
be  believed? 

The  only  proof  capable  of  being  given  that  an  object 
is  visible,  is  that  people  actually  see  it.  The  only 
proof  that  a  sound  is  audible,  is  that  people  hear  it : 
and  so  of  the  other  sources  of  our  experience.  In  like 
manner,  I  apprehend,  the  sole  evidence  it  is  possible 



to  produce  that  anything  is  desirable,  is  that  people 
do  actually  desire  it.  If  the  end  which  the  utilitarian 
doctrine  proposes  to  itself  were  not,  in  theory  and  in 
practice,  acknowledged  to  be  an  end,  nothing  could 
ever  convince  any  person  that  it  was  so.  No  reason 
can  be  given  why  the  general  happiness  is  desirable, 
except  that  each  person,  so  far  as  he  believes  it  to  be 
attainable,  desires  his  own  happiness.  This,  however, 
being  a  fact,  we  have  not  only  all  the  proof  which  the 
case  admits  of,  but  all  which  it  is  possible  to  require, 
that  happiness  is  a  good :  that  each  person's  happiness 
is  a  good  to  that  person,  and  the  general  happiness, 
therefore,  a  good  to  the  aggregate  of  all  persons. 
Happiness  has  made  out  its  title  as  one  of  the  ends  of 
conduct,  and  consequently  one  of  the  criteria  of 

But  it  has  not,  by  this  alone,  proved  itself  to/ be  the 
sole  criterion.  To  do  that,  it  would  seem,  by  the 
same  rule,  necessary  to  show,  not  only  that  people 
desire  happiness,  but  that  they  never  desire  anything 
else.  Now  it  is  palpable  that  they  do  desire  things 
which,  in  common  language,  are  decidedly  distin- 
guished from  happiness.  They  desire,  for  example, 
virtue,  and  the  absence  of  vice,  no  less  really  than 
pleasure  and  the  absence  of  pain.  The  desire  of  virtue 
is  not  as  universal,  but  it  is  as  authentic  a  fact,  as  the 
desire  of  happiness.  And  hence  the  opponents  of  the 
utilitarian  standard  deem  that  they  have  a  right  to 
infer  that  there  are  other  ends  of  human  action  besides 
happiness,  and  that  happiness  is  not  the  standard  of 
approbation  and  disapprobation. 

But  does  the  utilitarian  doctrine  deny  that  people 
desire  virtue,  or  maintain  that  virtue  is  not  a  thing  to 

HOW   PROVED.  53 

be  desired?  The  very  reverse.  It  maintains  not  only 
that  virtue  is  to  be  desired,  but  that  it  is  to  be  desired 
disinterestedly,  for  itself.  Whatever  may  be  the 
opinion  of  utilitarian  moralists  as  to  the  original  con- 
ditions by  which  virtue  is  made  virtue ;  however  they 
may  believe  (as  they  do)  that  actions  and  dispositions 
are  only  virtuous  because  they  promote  another  end 
than  virtue;  yet  this  being  granted,  and  it  having 
been  decided,  from  considerations  of  this  description, 
what  is  virtuous,  they  not  only  place  virtue  at  the  very 
head  of  the  things  which  are  good  as  means  to  the 
ultimate  end,  but  they  also  recognise  as  a  psychologi- 
cal fact  the  possibility  of  its  being,  to  the  individual, 
a  good  in  itself,  without  looking  to  any  end  beyond 
it ;  and  hold,  that  the  mind  is  not  in  a  right  state,  not 
in  a  state  conformable  to  Utility,  not  in  the  state  most 
conducive  to  the  general  happiness,  unless  it  does  love 
virtue  in  this  manner — as  a  thing  desirable  in  itself, 
even  although,  in  the  individual  instance,  it  should 
not  produce  those  other  desirable  consequences  which 
it  tends  to  produce,  and  on  account  of  which  it  is  held 
to  be  virtue.  This  opinion  is  not,  in  the  smallest 
degree,  a  departure  from  the  Happiness  principle. 
The  ingredients  of  happiness  are  very  various,  and 
each  of  them  is  desirable  in  itself,  and  not  merely 
when  considered  as  swelling  an  aggregate.  The  prin- 
ciple of  utility  does  not  mean  that  any  given  pleasure, 
as  music,  for  instance,  or  any  given  exemption  from 
pain,  as  for  example  health,  are  to  be  looked  upon  as 
means  to  a  collective  something  termed  happiness,  and 
to  be  desired  on  that  account.  They  are  desired  and 
desirable  in  and  for  themselves ;  besides  being  means, 
they  are  a  part  of  the  end.  Yirtue,  according  to  the 


utilitarian  doctrine,  is  not  naturally  and  originally 
part  of  the  end,  but  it  is  capable  of  becoming  so ;  and 
in  those  who  love  it  disinterestedly  it  has  become  so, 
and  is  desired  and  cherished,  not  as  a  means  to  happi- 
ness, but  as  a  part  of  their  happiness. 

To  illustrate  this  farther,  we  may  remember  that 
virtue  is  not  the  only  thing,  originally  a  means,  and 
which  if  it  were  not  a  means  to  anything  else,  would 
be  and  remain  indifferent,  but  which  by  association 
with  what  it  is  a  means  to,  comes  to  be  desired  for 
itself,  and  that  too  with  the  utmost  intensity.  What, 
for  example,  shall  we  say  of  the  love  of  money  ?  There 
is  nothing  originally  more  desirable  about  money  than 
about  any  heap  of  glittering  pebbles.  Its  worth  is 
solely  that  of  the  things  which  it  will  buy;  the 
desires  for  other  things  than  itself,  which  it  is  a  means 
of  gratifying.  Yet  the  love  of  money  is  not  only  one 
of  the  strongest  moving  forces  of  human  life,  but 
money  is,  in  many  cases,  desired  in  and  for  itself;  the 
desire  to  possess  it  is  often  stronger  than  the  desire  to 
use  it,  and  goes  on  increasing  when  all  the  desires 
which  point  to  ends  beyond  it,  to  be  compassed  by 
it,  are  falling  off.  It  may,  then,  be  said  truly,  that 
money  is  desired  not  for  the  sake  of  an  end,  but  as 
part  of  the  end.  From  being  a  means  to  happiness,  it 
has  come  to  be  itself  a  principal  ingredient  of  the  in- 
dividual's conception  of  happiness.  The  same  may  be 
said  of  the  majority  of  the  great  objects  of  human  life 
— power,  for  example,  or  fame ;  except  that  to  each  of 
these  there  is  a  certain  amount  of  immediate  pleasure 
annexed,  which  has  at  least  the  semblance  of  being 
naturally  inherent  in  them ;  a  thing  which  cannot  be 
said  of  money.  Still,  however,  the  strongest  natural 

HOW    PROVED.  55 

attraction,  both  of  power  and  of  fame,  is  the  immense 
aid  they  give  to  the  attainment  of  our  other  wishes ; 
and  it  is  the  strong  association  thus  generated  between 
them  and  all  our  objects  of  desire,  which  gives  to  the 
direct  desire  of  them  the  intensity  it  often  assumes,  so 
as  in  some  characters  to  surpass  in  strength  all  other 
desires,  In  these  cases  the  means  have  become  a  part 
of  the  end,  and  a  more  important  part  of  it  than  any 
of  the  things  which  they  are  means  to.  What  was 
once  desired  as  an  instrument  for  the  attainment  of 
happiness,  has  come  to  be  desired  for  its  own  sake. 
In  being  desired  for  its  own  sake  it  is,  however,  desired 
as  part  of  happiness.  The  person  is  made,  or  thinks 
he  would  be  made,  happy  by  its  mere  possession ;  and 
is  made  unhappy  by  failure  to  obtain  it.  The  desire 
of  it  is  not  a  different  thing  from  the  desire  of  happi- 
ness, any  more  than  the  love  of  music,  or  the  desire  of 
health.  They  are  included  in  happiness.  They  are 
some  of  the  elements  of  which  the  desire  of  happiness 
is  made  up.  Happiness  is  not  an  abstract  idea,  but  a 
concrete  whole ;  and  these  are  some  of  its  parts.  And 
the  utilitarian  standard  sanctions  and  approves  their 
being  so.  Life  would  be  a  poor  thing,  very  ill  pro- 
vided with  sources  of  happiness,  if  there  were  not  this 
provision  of  nature,  by  which  things  originally  indif- 
ferent, but  conducive  to,  or  otherwise  associated  with, 
the  satisfaction  of  our  primitive  desires,  become  in 
themselves  sources  of  pleasure  more  valuable  than  the 
primitive  pleasures,  both  in  permanency,  in  the  space 
of  human  existence  that  they  are  capable  of  covering, 
and  even  in  intensity. 

Virtue,  according  to  the  utilitarian  conception,  is  a 
good  of  this  description.    There  was  no  original  desire 


of  it,  or  motive  to  it,  save  its  conduciveness  to  pleasure, 
and  especially  to  protection  from  pain.  But  through 
the  association  thus  formed,  it  may  be  felt  a  good  in 
itself,  and  desired  as  such  with  as  great  intensity  as 
any  other  good ;  and  with  this  difference  between  it 
and  the  love  of  money,  of  power,  or  of  fame,  that  all 
of  these  may,  and  often  do,  render  the  individual 
noxious  to  the  other  members  of  the  society  to  which 
he  belongs,  whereas  there  is  nothing  which  makes  him 
so  much  a  blessing  to  them  as  the  cultivation  of  the 
disinterested  love  of  virtue.  And  consequently,  the 
utilitarian  standard,  while  it  tolerates  and  approves 
those  other  acquired  desires,  up  to  the  point  beyond 
which  they  would  be  more  injurious  to  the  general 
happiness  than  promotive  of  it,  enjoins  and  requires 
the  cultivation  of  the  love  of  virtue  up  to  the  greatest 
strength  possible,  as  being  above  all  things  important 
to  the  general  happiness. 

It  results  from  the  preceding  considerations,  that 
there  is  in  reality  nothing  desired  except  happiness. 
Whatever  is  desired  otherwise  than  as  a  means  to 
some  end  beyond  itself,  and  ultimately  to  happiness, 
is  desired  as  itself  a  part  of  happiness,  and  is  not 
desired  for  itself  until  it  has  become  so.  Those  who 
desire  virtue  for  its  own  sake,  desire  it  either  because 
the  consciousness  of  it  is  a  pleasure,  or  because  the 
consciousness  of  being  without  it  is  a  pain,  or  for  both 
reasons  united;  as  in  truth  the  pleasure  and  pain 
seldom  exist  separately,  but  almost  always  together, 
the  same  person  feeling  pleasure  in  the  degree  of 
virtue  attained,  and  pain  in  not  having  attained  more. 
If  one  of  these  gave  him  no  pleasure,  and  the  other  no 
pain,  he  would  not  love  or  desire  virtue,  or  would 

HOW    PROVED.  57 

desire  it  only  for  the  other  benefits  which  it  might 
produce  to  himself  or  to  persons  whom  he  cared  for. 

We  have  now,  then,  an  answer  to  the  question,  of 
what  sort  of  proof  the  principle  of  utility  is  suscep- 
tible. If  the  opinion  which  I  have  now  stated  is 
psychologically  true — if  human  nature  is  so  consti- 
tuted as  to  desire  nothing  which  is  not  either  a  part 
of  happiness  or  a  means  of  happiness,  we  can  have  no 
other  proof,  and  we  require  no  other,  that  these  are 
the  only  things  desirable.  If  so,  happiness  is  the  sole 
end  of  human  action,  and  the  promotion  of  it  the  test 
by  which  to  judge  of  all  human  conduct ;  from  whence 
it  necessarily  follows  that  it  must  be  the  criterion  of 
morality,  since  a  part  is  included  in  the  whole. 

And  now  to  decide  whether  this  is  really  so; 
whether  mankind  do  desire  nothing  for  itself  but  that 
which  is  a  pleasure  to  them,  or  of  which  the  absence  is 
a  pain ;  we  have  evidently  arrived  at  a  question  of 
fact  and  experience,  dependent,  like  all  similar  ques- 
tions, upon  evidence.  It  can  only  be  determined 
by  practised  self-consciousness  and  self-observation, 
assisted  by  observation  of  others.  I  believe  that  these 
sources  of  evidence,  impartially  consulted,  will  declare 
that  desiring  a  thing  and  finding  it  pleasant,  aversion 
to  it  and  thinking  of  it  as  painfu],  are  phenomena 
entirely  inseparable,  or  rather  two  parts  of  the  same 
phenomenon ;  in  strictness  of  language,  two  different 
modes  of  naming  the  same  psychological  fact :  that 
to  think  of  an  object  as  desirable  (unless  for  the  sake 
of  its  consequences),  and  to  think  of  it  as  pleasant,  are 
one  and  the  same  thing ;  and  that  to  desire  anything, 
except  in  proportion  as  the  idea  of  it  is  pleasant,  is  a 
physical  and  metaphysical  impossibility. 


So  obvious  does  this  appear  to  me,  that  I  expect  it 
will  hardly  be  disputed:  and  the  objection  made  will 
be,  not  that  desire  can  possibly  be  directed  to  any- 
thing ultimately  except  pleasure  and  exemption  from 
pain,  but  that  the  will  is  a  different  thing  from  desire ; 
that  a  person  of  confirmed  virtue,  or  any  other  person 
whose  purposes  are  fixed,  carries  out  his  purposes 
without  any  thought  of  the  pleasure  he  has  in  con- 
templating them,  or  expects  to  derive  from  their  ful- 
filment ;  and  persists  in  acting  on  them,  even  though 
these  pleasures  are  much  diminished,  by  changes  in 
his  character  or  decay  of  his  passive  sensibilities,  or 
are  outweighed  by  the  pains  which  the  pursuit  of  the 
purposes  may  bring  upon  him.  All  this  I  fully  admit, 
and  have  stated  it  elsewhere,  as  positively  and  emphati- 
cally as  any  one.  Will,  the  active  phenomenon,  is  a  dif- 
ferent thing  from  desire,  the  state  of  passive  sensibility, 
and  though  originally  an  offshoot  from  it,  may  in  time 
take  root  and  detach  itself  from  the  parent  stock  ;  so 
much  so,  that  in  the  case  of  an  habitual  purpose, 
instead  of  willing  the  thing  because  we  desire  it,  we 
often  desire  it  only  because  we  will  it.  This,  how- 
ever, is  but  an  instance  of  that  familiar  fact,  the  power 
of  habit,  and  is  nowise  confined  to  the  case  of  virtuous 
actions.  Many  indifferent  things,  which  men  ori- 
ginally did  from  a  motive  of  some  sort,  they  continue 
to  do  from  habit.  Sometimes  this  is  done  uncon- 
sciously, the  consciousness  coming  only  after  the 
action :  at  other  times  with  conscious  volition,  but 
volition  which  has  become  habitual,  and  is  put  in 
operation  by  the  force  of  habit,  in  opposition  perhaps 
to  the  deliberate  preference,  as  often  happens  with 
those  who  have  contracted  habits  of  vicious  or  hurtful 

HOW    PROVED.  59 

indulgence.  Third  and  last  comes  the  case  in  which 
the  habitual  act  of  will  in  the  individual  instance, 
is  not  in  contradiction  to  the  general  intention  pre- 
vailing at  other  times,  but  in  fulfilment  of  it ;  as  in 
the  case  of  the  person  of  confirmed  virtue,  and  of  all 
who  pursue  deliberately  and  consistently  any  deter- 
minate end.  The  distinction  between  will  and  desire 
thus  understood,  is  an  authentic  and  highly  important 
psychological  fact ;  but  the  fact  consists  solely  in  this 
— that  will,  like  all  other  parts  of  our  constitution,  is 
amenable  to  habit,  and  that  we  may  will  from  habit 
what  we  no  longer  desire  for  itself,  or  desire  only 
because  we  will  it.  It  is  not  the  less  true  that  will, 
in  the  beginning,  is  entirely  produced  by  desire ;  in- 
cluding in  that  term  the  repelling  influence  of  pain  as 
well  as  the  attractive  one  of  pleasure.  Let  us  take 
into  consideration,  no  longer  the  person  who  has  a 
confirmed  will  to  do  right,  but  him  in  whom  that 
virtuous  will  is  still  feeble,  conquerable  by  temptation, 
and  not  to  be  fully  relied  on ;  by  what  means  can  it 
be  strengthened  ?  How  can  the  will  to  be  virtuous, 
where  it  does  not  exist  in  sufficient  force,  be  implanted 
or  awakened  ?  Only  by  making  the  person  desire 
virtue — by  making  him  think  of  it  in  a  pleasurable 
light,  or  of  its  absence  in  a  painful  one.  It  is  by  associ- 
ating the  doing  right  with  pleasure,  or  the  doing  wrong 
with  pain,  or  by  eliciting  and  impressing  and  bringing 
home  to  the  person's  experience  the  pleasure  naturally 
involved  in  the  one  or  the  pain  in  the  other,  that  it  is  pos- 
sible to  call  forth  that  will  to  be  virtuous,  which,  when 
confirmed,  acts  without  any  thought  of  either  pleasure 
or  pain.  Will  is  the  child  of  desire,  and  passes  out  of 
the  dominion  of  its  parent  only  to  come  under  that  of 


habit.  That  which  is  the  result  of  habit  affords  no 
presumption  of  being  intrinsically  good;  and  there 
would  be  no  reason  for  wishing  that  the  purpose  of 
virtue  should  become  independent  of  pleasure  and  pain, 
were  it  not  that  the  influence  of  the  pleasurable  and 
painful  associations  which  prompt  to  virtue  is  not 
sufficiently  to  be  depended  on  for  unerring  constancy  of 
action  until  it  has  acquired  the  support  of  habit. 
Both  in  feeling  and  in  conduct,  habit  is  the  only  thing 
which  imparts  certainty;  and  it  is  because  of  the 
importance  to  others  of  being  able  to  rely  absolutely 
on  one's  feelings  and  conduct,  and  to  oneself  of  being 
able  to  rely  on  one's  own,  that  the  will  to  do  right 
ought  to  be  cultivated  into  this  habitual  independence. 
In  other  words,  this  state  of  the  will  is  a  means  to 
good,  not  intrinsically  a  good ;  and  does  not  contradict 
the  doctrine  that  nothing  is  a  good  to  human  beings 
but  in  so  far  as  it  is  either  itself  pleasurable,  or  a 
means  of  attaining  pleasure  or  averting  pain. 

But  if  this  doctrine  be  true,  the  principle  of  utility 
is  proved.  Whether  it  is  so  or  not,  must  now  be  left 
to  the  consideration  of  the  thoughtful  reader. 




IN  all  ages  of  speculation,  one  of  the  strongest 
obstacles  to  the  reception  of  the  doctrine  that 
Utility  or  Happiness  is  the  criterion  of  right  and 
wrong,  has  been  drawn  from  the  idea  of  Justice.  The 
powerful  sentiment,  and  apparently  clear  perception, 
which  that  word  recals  with  a  rapidity  and  certainty 
resembling  an  instinct,  have  seemed  to  the  majority 
of  thinkers  to  point  to  an  inherent  quality  in  things ; 
to  show  that  the  Just  must  have  an  existence  in  Nature 
as  something  absolute,  generically  distinct  from  every 
variety  of  the  Expedient,  and,  in  idea,  opposed  to  it, 
though  (as  is  commonly  acknowledged)  never,  in  the 
long  run,  disjoined  from  it  in  fact. 

In  the  case  of  this,  as  of  our  other  moral  senti- 
ments, there  is  no  necessary  connexion  between  the 
question  of  its  origin,  and  that  of  its  binding  force. 
That  a  feeling  is  bestowed  on  us  by  Nature,  does  not 
necessarily  legitimate  all  its  promptings.  The  feeling 
of  justice  might  be  a  peculiar  instinct,  and  might  yet 
require,  like  our  other  instincts,  to  be  controlled  and 
enlightened  by  a  higher  reason.  If  we  have  intel- 
lectual instincts,  leading  us  to  judge  in  a  particular 
way,  as  well  as  animal  instincts  that  prompt  us  to  act 
in  a  particular  way,  there  is  no  necessity  that  the 
former  should  be  more  infallible  in  their  sphere  than 


the  latter  in  theirs  :  it  may  as  well  happen  that  wrong 
judgments  are  occasionally  suggested  by  those,  as 
wrong  actions  by  these.  But  though  it  is  one  thing 
to  believe  that  we  have  natural  feelings  of  justice,  and 
another  to  acknowledge  them  as  an  ultimate  criterion 
of  conduct,  these  two  opinions  are  very  closely  con- 
nected in  point  of  fact.  Mankind  are  always  pre- 
disposed to  believe  that  any  subjective  feeling,  not 
otherwise  accounted  for,  is  a  revelation  of  some  ob- 
jective reality.  Our  present  object  is  to  determine 
whether  the  reality,  to  which  the  feeling  of  justice 
corresponds,  is  one  which  needs  any  such  special  reve- 
lation ;  whether  the  justice  or  injustice  of  an  action 
is  a  thing  intrinsically  peculiar,  and  distinct  from  all 
its  other  qualities,  or  only  a  combination  of  certain  of 
those  qualities,  presented  under  a  peculiar  aspect.  For 
the  purpose  of  this  inquiry  it  is  practically  important 
to  consider,  whether  the  feeling  itself,  of  justice  and 
injustice,  is  sui  generis  like  our  sensations  of  colour 
and  taste,  or  a  derivative  feeling,  formed  by  a  com- 
bination of  others.  And  this  it  is  the  more  essential 
to  examine,  as  people  are  in  general  willing  enough 
to  allow,  that  objectively  the  dictates  of  Justice  coin- 
cide with  a  part  of  the  field  of  General  Expediency ; 
but  inasmuch  as  the  subjective  mental  feeling  of 
Justice  is  different  from  that  which  commonly  attaches 
to  simple  expediency,  and,  except  in  the  extreme  cases 
of  the  latter,  is  far  more  imperative  in  its  demands, 
people  find  it  difficult  to  see,  in  Justice,  only  a  par- 
ticular kind  or  branch  of  general  utility,  and  think 
that  its  superior  binding  force  requires  a  totally  dif- 
ferent origin. 

To  throw  light  upon  this  question,  it  is  necessary 


to  attempt  to  ascertain  what  is  the  distinguishing 
character  of  justice,  or  of  injustice :  what  is  the 
quality,  or  whether  there  is  any  quality,  attributed  in 
common  to  all  modes  of  conduct  designated  as  unjust 
(for  justice,  like  many  other  moral  attributes,  is  best 
denned  by  its  opposite),  and  distinguishing  them  from 
such  modes  of  conduct  as  are  disapproved,  but  without 
having  that  particular  epithet  of  disapprobation  applied 
to  them.  If  in  everything  which  men  are  accustomed 
to  characterize  as  just  or  unjust,  some  one  common 
attribute  or  collection  of  attributes  is  always  present, 
we  may  judge  whether  this  particular  attribute  or 
combination  of  attributes  would  be  capable  of  gather- 
ing round  it  a  sentiment  of  that  peculiar  character 
and  intensity  by  virtue  of  the  general  laws  of  our 
emotional  constitution,  or  whether  the  sentiment  is 
inexplicable,  and  requires  to  be  regarded  as  a  special 
provision  of  Nature.  If  we  find  the  former  to  be  the 
case,  we  shall,  in  resolving  this  question,  have  resolved 
also  the  main  problem  :  if  the  latter,  we  shall  have  to 
seek  for  some  other  mode  of  investigating  it. 

To  find  the  common  attributes  of  a  variety  of 
objects,  it  is  necessary  to  begin  by  surveying  the 
objects  themselves  in  the  concrete.  Let  us  therefore 
advert  successively  to  the  various  modes  of  action,  and 
arrangements  of  human  affairs,  which  are  classed,  by 
universal  or  widely  spread  opinion,  as  Just  or  as  Un- 
just. The  things  well  known  to  excite  the  sentiments 
associated  with  those  names,  are  of  a  very  multifarious 
character.  I  shall  pass  them  rapidly  in  review,  with- 
out studying  any  particular  arrangement. 

In  the  first  place,  it  is  mostly  considered  unjust  to 


deprive  any  one  of  his  personal  liberty,  his  property, 
or  any  other  thing  which  belongs  to  him  by  law. 
Here,  therefore,  is  one  instance  of  the  application  of 
the  terms  just  and  unjust  in  a  perfectly  definite  sense, 
namely,  that  it  is  just  to  respect,  unjust  to  violate, 
the  legal  rights  of  any  one.  But  this  judgment  admits 
of  several  exceptions,  arising  from  the  other  forms  in 
which  the  notions  of  justice  and  injustice  present 
themselves.  For  example,  the  person  who  suffers  the 
deprivation  may  (as  the  phrase  is)  have  forfeited  the 
rights  which  he  is  so  deprived  of:  a  case  to  which  we 
shall  return  presently.  But  also, 

Secondly  ;  the  legal  rights  of  which  he  is  deprived, 
may  be  rights  which  ought  not  to  have  belonged  to 
him ;  in  other  words,  the  law  which  confers  on  him 
these  rights,  may  be  a  bad  law.  When  it  is  so,  or 
when  (which  is  the  same  thing  for  our  purpose)  it  is 
supposed  to  be  so,  opinions  will  differ  as  to  the  justice 
or  injustice  of  infringing  it.  Some  maintain  that  no 
law,  however  bad,  ought  to  be  disobeyed  by  an  indi- 
vidual citizen ;  that  his  opposition  to  it,  if  shown  at 
all,  should  only  be  shown  in  endeavouring  to  get  it 
altered  by  competent  authority.  This  opinion  (which 
condemns  many  of  the  most  illustrious  benefactors  of 
mankind,  and  would  often  protect  pernicious  institu- 
tions against  the  only  weapons  which,  in  the  state  of 
things  existing  at  the  time,  have  any  chance  of  suc- 
ceeding against  them)  is  defended,  by  those  who  hold 
it,  on  grounds  of  expediency ;  principally  on  that  of 
the  importance,  to  the  common  interest  of  mankind, 
of  maintaining  inviolate  the  sentiment  of  submission 
to  law.  Other  persons,  again,  hold  the  directly  con- 
trary opinion,  that  any  law,  judged  to  be  bad,  may 


blamelessly  be  disobeyed,  even  though  it  be  not 
judged  to  be  unjust,  but  only  inexpedient;  while 
others  would  confine  the  licence  of  disobedience  to  the 
case  of  unjust  laws  :  but  again,  some  say,  that  all 
laws  which  are  inexpedient  are  unjust;  since  every 
law  imposes  some  restriction  on  the  natural  liberty  of 
mankind,  which  restriction  is  an  injustice,  unless  legi- 
timated by  tending  to  their  good.  Among  these 
diversities  of  opinion,  it  seems  to  be  universally  ad- 
mitted that  there  may  be  unjust  laws,  and  that  law, 
consequently,  is  not  the  ultimate  criterion  of  justice, 
but  may  give  to  one  person  a  benefit,  or  impose  on 
another  an  evil,  which  justice  condemns.  When,  how- 
ever, a  law  is  thought  to  be  unjust,  it  seems  always 
to  be  regarded  as  being  so  in  the  same  way  in  which  a 
breach  of  law  is  unjust,  namely,  by  infringing  some- 
body's right ;  which,  as  it  cannot  in  this  case  be  a 
legal  right,  receives  a  different  appellation,  and  is 
called  a  moral  right.  We  may  say,  therefore,  that  a 
second  case  of  injustice  consists  in  taking  or  with- 
holding from  any  person  that  to  which  he  has  a  moral 

Thirdly,  it  is  universally  considered  just  that  each 
person  should  obtain  that  (whether  good  or  evil) 
which  he  deserves ;  and  unjust  that  he  should  obtain 
a  good,  or  be  made  to  undergo  an  evil,  which  he  does 
not  deserve.  This  is,  perhaps,  the  clearest  and  most 
emphatic  form  in  which  the  idea  of  justice  is  con- 
ceived by  the  general  mind.  As  it  involves  the 
notion  of  desert,  the  question  arises,  what  constitutes 
desert  ?  Speaking  in  a  general  way,  a  person  is  un- 
derstood to  deserve  good  if  he  does  right,  evil  if  he 
does  wrong ;  and  in  a  more  particular  sense,  to  de- 


serve  good  from  those  to  whom  he  does  or  has  done 
good,  and  evil  from  those  to  whom  he  does  or  has 
done  evil.  The  precept  of  returning  good  for  evil 
has  never  been  regarded  as  a  case  of  the  fulfilment  of 
justice,  but  as  one  in  which  the  claims  of  justice  are 
waved,  in  obedience  to  other  considerations. 

Fourthly,  it  is  confessedly  unjust  to  break  faith 
with  any  one :  to  violate  an  engagement,  either  ex- 
press or  implied,  or  disappoint  expectations  raised  by 
our  own  conduct,  at  least  if  we  have  raised  those 
expectations  knowingly  and  voluntarily.  Like  the 
other  obligations  of  justice  already  spoken  of,  this  one 
is  not  regarded  as  absolute,  but  as  capable  of  being 
overruled  by  a  stronger  obligation  of  justice  on  the 
other  side;  or  by  such  conduct  on  the  part  of  the 
person  concerned  as  is  deemed  to  absolve  us  from  our 
obligation  to  him,  and  to  constitute  &  forfeiture  of  the 
benefit  which  he  has  been  led  to  expect. 

Fifthly,  it  is,  by  universal  admission,  inconsistent 
with  justice  to  be  partial ;  to  show  favour  or  pre- 
ference to  one  person  over  another,  in  matters  to 
which  favour  and  preference  do  not  properly  apply. 
Impartiality,  however,  does  not  seem  to  be  regarded 
as  a  duty  in  itself,  but  rather  as  instrumental  to  some 
other  duty ;  for  it  is  admitted  that  favour  and  pre- 
ference are  not  always  censurable,  and  indeed  the 
cases  in  which  they  are  condemned  are  rather  the  ex- 
ception than  the  rule.  A  person  would  be  more  likely 
to  be  blamed  than  applauded  for  giving  his  family  or 
friends  no  superiority  in  good  offices  over  strangers, 
when  he  could  do  so  without  violating  any  other 
duty ;  and  no  one  thinks  it  unjust  to  seek  one  person 
in  preference  to  another  as  a  friend,  connexion,  or 


companion.  Impartiality  where  rights  are  concerned, 
is  of  course  obligatory,  but  this  is  involved  in  the 
more  general  obligation  of  giving  to  every  one  his 
right.  A  tribunal,  for  example,  must  be  impartial, 
because  it  is  bound  to  award,  without  regard  to  any 
other  consideration,  a  disputed  object  to  the  one  of 
two  parties  who  has  the  right  to  it.  There  are  other 
cases  in  which  impartiality  means,  being  solely  in- 
fluenced by  desert ;  as  with  those  who,  in  the  capacity 
of  judges,  preceptors,  or  parents,  administer  reward 
and  punishment  as  such.  There  are  cases,  again,  in 
which  it  means,  being  solely  influenced  by  considera- 
tion for  the  public  interest ;  as  in  making  a  selection 
among  candidates  for  a  government  employment. 
Impartiality,  in  short,  as  an  obligation  of  justice,  may 
be  said  to  mean,  being  exclusively  influenced  by  the 
considerations  which  it  is  supposed  ought  to  influence 
the  particular  case  in  hand ;  and  resisting  the  solici- 
tation of  any  motives  which  prompt  to  conduct  diffe- 
rent from  what  those  considerations  would  dictate. 

Nearly  allied  to  the  idea  of  impartiality,  is  that  of 
equality ;  which  often  enters  as  a  component  part  both 
into  the  conception  of  justice  and  into  the  practice  of 
it,  and,  in  the  eyes  of  many  persons,  constitutes  its 
essence.  But  in  this,  still  more  than  in  any  other 
case,  the  notion  of  justice  varies  in  different  persons, 
and  always  conforms  in  its  variations  to  their  notion 
of  utility.  Each  person  maintains  that  equality  is 
the  dictate  of  justice,  except  where  he  thinks  that 
expediency  requires  inequality.  The  justice  of  giving 
equal  protection  to  the  rights  of  all,  is  maintained  by 
those  who  support  the  most  outrageous  inequality  in 
the  rights  themselves.  Even  in  slave  countries  it  is 

IP  2 


theoretically  admitted  that  the  rights  of  the  slave, 
such  as  they  are,  ought  to  be  as  sacred  as  those  of 
the  master ;  and  that  a  tribunal  which  fails  to  enforce 
them  with  equal  strictness  is  wanting  in  justice ; 
while,  at  the  same  time,  institutions  which  leave  to 
the  slave  scarcely  any  rights  to  enforce,  are  not 
deemed  unjust,  because  they  are  not  deemed  inexpe- 
dient. Those  who  think  that  utility  requires  distinc- 
tions of  rank,  do  not  consider  it  unjust  that  riches 
and  social  privileges  should  be  unequally  dispensed ; 
but  those  who  think  this  inequality  inexpedient, 
think  it  unjust  also.  Whoever  thinks  that  govern- 
ment is  necessary,  sees  no  injustice  in  as  much  in- 
equality as  is  constituted  by  giving  to  the  magistrate 
powers  not  granted  to  other  people.  Even  among 
those  who  hold  levelling  doctrines,  there  are  as  many 
questions  of  justice  as  there  are  differences  01*  opinion 
about  expediency.  Some  Communists  consider  it  un- 
just that  the  produce  of  the  labour  of  the  community 
should  be  shared  on  any  other  principle  than  that  of 
exact  equality ;  others  think  it  just  that  those  should 
receive  most  whose  wants  are  greatest ;  while  others 
hold  that  those  who  work  harder,  or  who  produce 
more,  or  whose  services  are  more  valuable  to  the  com- 
munity, may  justly  claim  a  larger  quota  in  the  divi- 
sion of  the  produce.  And  the  sense  of  natural  justice 
may  be  plausibly  appealed  to  in  behalf  of  every  one 
of  these  opinions. 

Among  so  many  diverse  applications  of  the  term 
Justice,  which  yet  is  not  regarded  as  ambiguous,  it  is 
a  matter  of  some  difficulty  to  seize  the  mental  link 
which  holds  them  together,  and  on  which  the  moral 
sentiment  adhering  to  the  term  essentially  depends. 


Perhaps,  in  this  embarrassment,  some  help  may  be 
derived  from  the  history  of  the  word,  as  indicated  by 
its  etymology. 

In  most,  if  not  in  all,  languages,  the  etymology  of 
the  word  which  corresponds  to  Just,  points  distinctly 
to  an  origin  connected  with  the  ordinances  of  law. 
JustumiB  a  form  of  jmsum,  that  which  has  been  ordered. 
A//catoi/  comes  directly  from  Si/cr?,  a  suit  at  law.  RecJit, 
from  which  came  rigid  and  righteous,  is  synonymous 
with  law.  The  courts  of  justice,  the  administration 
of  justice,  are  the  courts  and  the  administration  of 
law.  La  justice,  in  French,  is  the  established  term  for 
judicature.  I  am  not  committing  the  fallacy  imputed 
with  some  show  of  truth  to  Home  Tooke,  of  assuming 
that  a  word  must  still  continue  to  mean  what  it 
originally  meant.  Etymology  is  slight  evidence  of 
what  the  idea  now  signified  is,  but  the  very  best 
evidence  of  how  it  sprang  up.  There  can,  I  think,  be 
no  doubt  that  the  idee  mere,  the  primitive  element,  in 
the  formation  of  the  notion  of  justice,  was  conformity 
to  law.  It  constituted  the  entire  idea  among  the 
Hebrews,  up  to  the  birth  of  Christianity ;  as  might  be 
expected  in  the  case  of  a  people  whose  laws  attempted 
to  embrace  all  subjects  on  which  precepts  were  re- 
quired, and  who  believed  those  laws  to  be  a  direct 
emanation  from  the  Supreme  Eeing.  But  other 
nations,  and  in  particular  the  Greeks  and  Eomans, 
who  knew  that  their  laws  had  been  made  originally, 
and  still  continued  to  be  made,  by  men,  were  not 
afraid  to  admit  that  those  men  might  make  bad  laws; 
might  do,  by  law,  the  same  things,  and  from  the  same 
motives,  which  if  done  by  individuals  without  the 
sanction  of  law,  would  be  called  unjust.  And  hence 


the  sentiment  of  injustice  came  to  be  attached,  not  to 
all  violations  of  law,  but  only  to  violations  of  such 
laws  as  ought  to  exist,  including  such  as  ought  to  exist, 
but  do  not ;  and  to  laws  themselves,  if  supposed  to  be 
contrary  to  what  ought  to  be  law.  In  this  manner  the 
idea  of  law  and  of  its  injunctions  was  still  predominant 
in  the  notion  of  justice,  even  when  the  laws  actually  in 
force  ceased  to  be  accepted  as  the  standard  of  it. 

It  is  true  that  mankind  consider  the  idea  of  justice 
and  its  obligations  as  applicable  to  many  things  which 
neither  are,  nor  is  it  desired  that  they  should  be, 
regulated  by  law.  Nobody  desires  that  laws  should 
interfere  with  the  whole  detail  of  private  life ;  yet 
every  one  allows  that  in  all  daily  conduct  a  person 
may  and  does  show  himself  to  be  either  just  or  unjust. 
But  even  here,  the  idea  of  the  breach  of  what  ought 
to  be  law,  still  lingers  in  a  modified  shape.  It  would 
always  give  us  pleasure,  and  chime  in  with  our  feel- 
ings of  fitness,  that  acts  which  we  deem  unjust  should 
be  punished,  though  we  do  not  always  think  it  expe- 
dient that  this  should  be  done  by  the  tribunals.  We 
forego  that  gratification  on  account  of  incidental  in- 
conveniences. We  should  be  glad  to  see  just  conduct 
enforced  and  injustice  repressed,  even  in  the  minutest 
details,  if  we  were  not,  with  reason,  afraid  of  trusting 
the  magistrate  with  so  unlimited  an  amount  of  power 
over  individuals.  When  we  think  that  a  person  is 
bound  in  justice  to  do  a  thing,  it  is  an  ordinary  form 
of  language  to  say,  that  he  ought  to  be  compelled  to 
do  it.  We  should  be  gratified  to  see  the  obligation 
enforced  by  anybody  who  had  the  power.  If  we  see 
that  its  enforcement  by  law  would  be  inexpedient,  we 
lament  the  impossibility,  we  consider  the  impunity 


given  to  injustice  as  an  evil,  and  strive  to  make  amends 
for  it  by  bringing  a  strong  expression  of  our  own  and 
the  public  disapprobation  to  bear  upon  the  offender. 
Thus  the  idea  of  legal  constraint  is  still  the  generating 
idea  of  the  notion  of  justice,  though  undergoing  several 
transformations  before  that  notion,  as  it  exists  in  an 
advanced  state  of  society,  becomes  complete. 

The  above  is,  I  think,  a  true  account,  as  far  as  it 
goes,  of  the  origin  and  progressive  growth  of  the  idea 
of  justice.  But  we  must  observe,  that  it  contains,  as 
yet,  nothing  to  distinguish  that  obligation  from  moral 
obligation  in  general.  For  the  truth  is,  that  the  idea 
of  penal  sanction,  which  is  the  essence  of  law,  enters 
not  only  into  the  conception  of  injustice,  but  into  that 
of  any  kind  of  wrong.  We  do  not  call  anything 
wrong,  unless  we  mean  to  imply  that  a  person  ought 
to  be  punished  in  some  way  or  other  for  doing  it ;  if 
not  by  law,  by  the  opinion  of  his  fellow  creatures ;  if 
not  by  opinion,  by  the  reproaches  of  his  own  con- 
science. This  seems  the  real  turning  point  of  the  dis- 
tinction between  morality  and  simple  expediency.  It 
is  a  part  of  the  notion  of  Duty  in  every  one  of  its 
forms,  that  a  person  may  rightfully  be  compelled  to 
fulfil  it.  Duty  is  a  thing  which  may  be  exacted  from 
a  person,  as  one  exacts  a  debt.  Unless  we  think  that 
it  may  be  exacted  from  him,  we  do  not  call  it  his 
duty.  Reasons  of  prudence,  or  the  interest  of  other 
people,  may  militate  against  actually  exacting  it ;  but 
the  person  himself,  it  is  clearly  understood,  would  not 
be  entitled  to  complain.  There  are  other  things,  on 
the  contrary,  which  we  wish  that  people  should  do, 
which  we  like  or  admire  them  for  doing,  perhaps  dis- 
like or  despise  them  for  not  doing,  but  yet  admit  that 


they  are  not  bound  to  do  ;  it  is  not  a  case  of  moral 
obligation ;  we  do  not  blame  them,  that  is,  we  do  not 
think  that  they  are  proper  objects  of  punishment. 
How  we  come  by  these  ideas  of  deserving  and  not 
deserving  punishment,  will  appear,  perhaps,  in  the 
sequel ;  but  I  think  there  is  no  doubt  that  this  dis- 
tinction lies  at  the  bottom  of  the  notions  of  right 
and  wrong;  that  we  call  any  conduct  wrong,  or 
employ,  instead,  some  other  term  of  dislike  or  dispar- 
agement, according  as  we  think  that  the  person  ought, 
or  ought  not,  to  be  punished  for  it ;  and  we  say,  it 
would  be  right  to  do  so  and  so,  or  merely  that  it 
would  be  desirable  or  laudable,  according  as  we  would 
wish  to  see  the  person  whom  it  concerns,  compelled, 
or  only  persuaded  and  exhorted,  to  act  in  that 


This,  therefore,  being  the  characteristic  difference 
which  marks  off,  not  justice,  but  morality  in  general, 
from  the  remaining  provinces  of  Expediency  and 
Worthiness ;  the  character  is  still  to  be  sought  which 
distinguishes  justice  from  other  branches  of  morality. 
Now  it  is  known  that  ethical  writers  divide  moral 
duties  into  two  classes,  denoted  by  the  ill-chosen  ex- 
pressions, duties  of  perfect  and  of  imperfect  obliga- 
tion ;  the  latter  being  those  in  which,  though  the  act 
is  obligatory,  the  particular  occasions  of  performing  it 
are  left  to  our  choice ;  as  in  the  case  of  charity  or 
beneficence,  which  we  are  indeed  bound  to  practise, 
but  not  towards  any  definite  person,  nor  at  any  pre- 

*  See  this  point  enforced  and  illustrated  by  Professor  Bain,  in  an  ad- 
mirable chapter  (entitled  '  The  Ethical  Emotions,  or  the  Moral  Sense'), 
of  the  second  of  the  two  treatises  composing  his  elaborate  and  profound 
work  on  the  Mind. 


scribed  time.  In  the  more  precise  language  of  philo- 
sophic jurists,  duties  of  perfect  obligation  are  those 
duties  in  virtue  of  which  a  correlative  right  resides  in 
some  person  or  persons ;  duties  of  imperfect  obligation 
are  those  moral  obligations  which  do  not  give  birth  to 
any  right.  I  think  it  will  be  found  that  this  distinc- 
tion exactly  coincides  with  that  which  exists  between 
justice  and  the  other  obligations  of  morality.  In  our 
survey  of  the  various  popular  acceptations  of  justice, 
the  term  appeared  generally  to  involve  the  idea  of  a 
personal  right — a  claim  on  the  part  of  one  or  more 
individuals,  like  that  which  the  law  gives  when  it 
confers  a  proprietary  or  other  legal  right.  Whether 
the  injustice  consists  in  depriving  a  person  of  a  pos- 
session, or  in  breaking  faith  with  him,  or  in  treating 
him  worse  than  he  deserves,  or  worse  than  other  people 
who  have  no  greater  claims,  in  each  case  the  supposi- 
tion implies  two  things — a  wrong  done,  and  some 
assignable  person  who  is  wronged.  Injustice  may 
also  be  done  by  treating  a  person  better  than  others ; 
but  the  wrong  in  this  case  is  to  his  competitors,  who 
are  also  assignable  persons.  It  seems  to  me  that  this 
feature  in  the  case — a  right  in  some  person,  correlative 
to  the  moral  obligation — constitutes  the  specific  ^dif- 
ference between  justice,  and  generosity  or  beneficence. 
Justice  implies  something  which  it  is  not  only  right 
to  do,  and  wrong  not  to  do,  but  which  some  individual 
person  can  claim  from  us  as  his  moral  right.  No  one 
has  a  moral  right  to  our  generosity  or  beneficence, 
because  we  are  not  morally  bound  to  practise  those 
virtues  towards  any  given  individual.  And  it  will  be 
found  with  respect  to  this  as  to  every  correct  defini- 
tion, that  the  instances  which  seem  to  conflict  with  it  are 


those  which  most  confirm  it.  For  if  a  moralist  attempts, 
as  some  have  done,  to  make  out  that  mankind  gene- 
rally, though  not  any  given  individual,  have  a  right 
to  all  the  good  we  can  do  them,  he  at  once,  by  that 
thesis,  includes  generosity  and  beneficence  within  the 
category  of  justice.  He  is  obliged  to  say,  that  our 
utmost  exertions  are  due  to  our  fellow  creatures,  thus 
assimilating  them  to  a  debt ;  or  that  nothing  less  can 
be  a  sufficient  return  for  what  society  does  for  us,  thus 
classing  the  case  as  one  of  gratitude ;  both  of  which 
are  acknowledged  cases  of  justice.  Wherever  there  is 
a  right,  the  case  is  one  of  justice,  and  not  of  the  virtue 
of  beneficence  :  and  whoever  does  not  place  the  distinc- 
tion between  justice  and  morality  in  general,  where 
we  have  now  placed  it,  will  be  found  to  make  no  dis- 
tinction between  them  at  all,  but  to  merge  all  moral- 
ity in  justice.  / 

Having  thus  endeavoured  to  determine  the  distinc- 
tive elements  which  enter  into  the  composition  of  the 
idea  of  justice,  we  are  ready  to  enter  on  the  inquiry, 
whether  the  feeling,  which  accompanies  the  idea,  is 
attached  to  it  by  a  special  dispensation  of  nature,  or 
whether  it  could  have  grown  up,  by  any  known  laws, 
out  of  the  idea  itself;  and  in  particular,  whether  it 
can  have  originated  in  considerations  of  general  ex- 

I  conceive  that  the  sentiment  itself  does  not  arise 
from  anything  which  would  commonly,  or  correctly, 
be  termed  an  idea  of  expediency ;  but  that  though 
the  sentiment  does  not,  whatever  is  moral  in  it  does. 

We  have  seen  that  the  two  essential  ingredients  in 
the  sentiment  of  justice  are,  the  desire  to  punish  a 


person  who  has  done  harm,  and  the  knowledge  or 
belief  that  there  is  some  definite  individual  or  indi- 
viduals to  whom  harm  has  been  done. 

Now  it  appears  to  me,  that  the  desire  to  punish  a 
person  who  has  done  harm  to  some  individual,  is  a 
spontaneous  outgrowth  from  two  sentiments,  both  in 
the  highest  degree  natural,  and  which  either  are  or 
resemble  instincts;  the  impulse  of  self-defence,  and 
the  feeling  of  sympathy. 

It  is  natural  to  resent,  and  to  repel  or  retaliate,  any 
harm  done  or  attempted  against  ourselves,  or  against 
those  with  whom  we  sympathize.  The  origin  of  this 
sentiment  it  is  not  necessary  here  to  discuss.  Whether 
it  be  an  instinct  or  a  result  of  intelligence,  it  is,  we 
know,  common  to  all  animal  nature  ;  for  every  animal 
tries  to  hurt  those  who  have  hurt,  or  who  it  thinks  are 
about  to  hurt,  itself  or  its  young.  Human  beings,  on. 
this  point,  only  differ  from  other  animals  in  two  par- 
ticulars. First,  in  being  capable  of  sympathizing,  not 
solely  with  their  offspring,  or,  like  some  of  the  more 
noble  animals,  with  some  superior  animal  who  is  kind 
to  them,  but  with  all  human,  and  even  with  all 
sentient,  beings.  Secondly,  in  having  a  more  de- 
veloped intelligence,  which  gives  a  wider  range  to 
the  whole  of  their  sentiments,  whether  self-regarding 
or  sympathetic.  By  virtue  of  his  superior  intelligence, 
even  apart  from  his  superior  range  of  sympathy, 
a  human  being  is  capable  of  apprehending  a  com- 
munity of  interest  between  himself  and  the  human 
society  of  which  he  forms  a  part,  such  that  any  con- 
duct which  threatens  the  security  of  the  society 
generally,  is  threatening  to  his  own,  and  calls  forth 
his  instinct  (if  instinct  it  be)  of  self-defence.  The 


same  superiority  of  intelligence,  joined  to  the  power 
of  sympathizing  with  human  beings  generally,  enables 
him  to  attach  himself  to  the  collective  idea  of  his 
tribe,  his  country,  or  mankind,  in  such  a  manner  that 
any  act  hurtful  to  them,  raises  his  instinct  of  sym- 
pathy, and  urges  him  to  resistance. 

The  sentiment  of  justice,  in  that  one  of  its  elements 
which  consists  of  the  desire  to  punish,  is  thus,  I  con- 
ceive, the  natural  feeling  of  retaliation  or  vengeance, 
rendered  by  intellect  and  sympathy  applicable  to  those 
injuries,  that  is,  to  those  hurts,  which  wound  us 
through,  or  in  common  with,  society  at  large.  This 
sentiment,  in  itself,  has  nothing  moral  in  it ;  what  is 
moral  is,  the  exclusive  subordination  of  it  to  the 
social  sympathies,  so  as  to  wait  on  and  obey  their  call. 
For  the  natural  feeling  would  make  us  resent  indis- 
criminately whatever  any  one  does  that  is  disagreeable 
to  us ;  but  when  moralized  by  the  social  feeling,  it 
only  acts  in  the  directions  conformable  to  the  general 
good :  just  persons  resenting  a  hurt  to  society,  though 
not  otherwise  a  hurt  to  themselves,  and  not  resenting 
a  hurt  to  themselves,  however  painful,  unless  it  be  of 
the  kind  which  society  has  a  common  interest  with 
them  in  the  repression  of. 

It  is  no  objection  against  this  doctrine  to  say,  that 
when  we  feel  our  sentiment  of  justice  outraged,  wre 
are  not  thinking  of  society  at  large,  or  of  any  collec- 
tive interest,  but  only  of  the  individual  case.  It  is 
common  enough  certainly,  though  the  reverse  of  com- 
mendable, to  feel  resentment  merely  because  we  have 
suffered  pain  ;  but  a  person  whose  resentment  is  really 
a  moral  feeling,  that  is,  who  considers  whether  an  act 
is  blameable  before  he  allows  himself  to  resent  it — 


such  a  person,  though,  he  may  not  say  expressly  to 
himself  that  he  is  standing  up  for  the  interest  of 
society,  certainly  does  feel  that  he  is  asserting  a  rule 
which  is  for  the  benefit  of  others  as  well  as  for  his 
own.  If  he  is  not  feeling  this — if  he  is  regarding  the 
act  solely  as  it  affects  him  individually — he  is  not 
consciously  just ;  he  is  not  concerning  himself  about 
the  justice  of  his  actions.  This  is  admitted  even  by 
anti-utilitarian  moralists.  When  Kant  (as  before 
remarked)  propounds  as  the  fundamental  principle  of 
morals,  '  So  act,  that  thy  rule  of  conduct  might  be 
adopted  as  a  law  by  all  rational  beings/  he  virtually 
acknowledges  that  the  interest  of  mankind  collec- 
tively, or  at  least  of  mankind  indiscriminately,  must 
be  in  the  mind  of  the  agent  when  conscientiously 
deciding  on  the  morality  of  the  act.  Otherwise  he 
uses  words  without  a  meaning :  for,  that  a  rule  even 
of  utter  selfishness  could  not  possibly  be  adopted  by 
all  rational  beings — that  there  is  any  insuperable 
obstacle  in  the  nature  of  things  to  its  adoption — can- 
not be  even  plausibly  maintained.  To  give  any 
meaning  to  Kant's  principle,  the  sense  put  upon  it 
must  be,  that  we  ought  to  shape  our  conduct  by  a 
rule  which  all  rational  beings  might  adopt  with  benefit 
to  their  collective  interest. 

To  recapitulate :  the  idea  of  justice  supposes  two 
things ;  a  rule  of  conduct,  and  a  sentiment  which 
sanctions  the  rule.  The  first  must  be  supposed  com- 
mon to  all  mankind,  and  intended  for  their  good. 
The  other  (the  sentiment)  is  a  desire  that  punishment 
may  be  suffered  by  those  who  infringe  the  rule.  There 
is  involved,  in  addition,  the  conception  of  some  de- 
finite person  who  suffers  by  the  infringement ;  whose 


rights  (to  use  the  expression  appropriated  to  the  case) 
are  violated  by  it.  And  the  sentiment  of  justice 
appears  to  me  to  be,  the  animal  desire  to  repel  or 
retaliate  a  hurt  or  damage  to  oneself,  or  to  those  with 
whom  one  sympathizes,  widened  so  as  to  include  all 
persons,  by  the  human  capacity  of  enlarged  sympathy, 
and  the  human  conception  of  intelligent  self-interest. 
Prom  the  latter  elements,  the  feeling  derives  its 
morality ;  from  the  former,  its  peculiar  impressive- 
ness,  and  energy  of  self-assertion. 

I  have,  throughout,  treated  the  idea  of  a  rigid  re- 
siding in  the  injured  person,  and  violated  by  the 
injury,  not  as  a  separate  element  in  the  composition 
of  the  idea  and  sentiment,  but  as  one  of  the  forms  in 
which  the  other  two  elements  clothe  themselves. 
These  elements  are,  a  hurt  to  some  assignable  person 
or  persons  on  the  one  hand,  and  a  demand  /for  punish- 
ment on  the  other.  An  examination  of  our  own 
minds,  I  think,  will  show,  that  these  two  things 
include  all  that  we  mean  when  we  speak  of  violation 
of  a  right.  When  we  call  anything  a  person's  right, 
we  mean  that  he  has  a  valid  claim  on  society  to  pro- 
tect him  in  the  possession  of  it,  either  by  the  force 
of  law,  or  by  that  of  education  and  opinion.  If 
lie  has  what  we  consider  a  sufficient  claim,  on 
whatever  account,  to  have  something  guaranteed  to 
him  by  society,  we  say  that  he  has  a  right  to  it.  If 
we  desire  to  prove  that  anything  does  not  belong  to 
him  by  right,  we  think  this  done  as  soon  as  it  is  ad- 
mitted that  society  ought  not  to  take  measures  for 
securing  it  to  him,  but  should  leave  him  to  chance,  or 
to  his  own  exertions.  Thus,  a  person  is  said  to  have 
a  right  to  what  he  can  earn  in  fair  professional  com- 


petition  ;  because  society  ought  not  to  allow  any  other 
person  to  hinder  him  from  endeavouring  to  earn  in 
that  manner  as  much  as  he  can.  But  he  has  not  a 
right  to  three  hundred  a-year,  though  he  may  happen 
to  be  earning  it ;  because  society  is  not  called  on  to 
provide  that  he  shall  earn  that  sum.  On  the  contrary, 
if  he  owns  ten  thousand  pounds  three  per  cent,  stock, 
he  has  a  right  to  three  hundred  a-year;  because 
society  has  come  under  an  obligation  to  provide  him 
with  an  income  of  that  amount. 

To  have  a  right,  then,  is,  I  conceive,  to  have  some- 
thing which  society  ought  to  defend  me  in  the 
possession  of.  If  the  objector  goes  on  to  ask,  why  it 
ought  ?  I  can  give  him  no  other  reason  than  general 
utility.  If  that  expression  does  not  seem  to  convey  a 
sufficient  feeling  of  the  strength  of  the  obligatioo,  nor 
to  account  for  the  peculiar  energy  of  the  feeling, 
it  is  because  there  goes  to  the  composition  of  the 
sentiment,  not  a  rational  only  but  also  an  animal 
element,  the  thirst  for  retaliation;  and  this  thirst 
derives  its  intensity,  as  well  as  its  moral  justifica- 
tion, from  the  extraordinarily  important  and  im- 
pressive kind  of  utility  which  is  concerned.  The  in- 
terest involved  is  that  of  security,  to  every  one's 
feelings  the  most  vital  of  all  interests.  All  other 
earthly  benefits  are  needed  by  one  person,  not  needed 
by  another ;  and  many  of  them  can,  if  necessary,  be 
cheerfully  foregone,  or  replaced  by  something  else; 
but  security  no  human  being  can  possibly  do  without ; 
on  it  we  depend  for  all  our  immunity  from  evil,  and 
for  the  whole  value  of  all  and  every  good,  beyond  the 
passing  moment ;  since  nothing  but  the  gratification 
of  the  instant  could  be  of  any  worth  to  us,  if  we  could 


be  deprived  of  everything  the  next  instant  by  whoever 
was  momentarily  stronger  than  ourselves.  Now  this 
most  indispensable  of  all  necessaries,  after  physical 
nutriment,  cannot  be  had,  unless  the  machinery  for 
providing  it  is  kept  unintermittedly  in  active  play. 
Our  notion,  therefore,  of  the  claim  we  have  on  our 
fellow  creatures  to  join  in  making  safe  for  us  the  very 
groundwork  of  our  existence,  gathers  feelings  around 
it  so  much  more  intense  than  those  concerned  in  any 
of  the  more  common  cases  of  utility,  that  the  dif- 
ference in  degree  (as  is  often  the  case  in  psychology) 
becomes  a  real  difference  in  kind.  The  claim  assumes 
that  character  of  absoluteness,  that  apparent  infinity, 
and  incommensurability  with  all  other  considerations, 
which  constitute  the  distinction  between  the  feeling  of 
right  and  wrong  and  that  of  ordinary  expediency  and 
inexpediency.  The  feelings  concerned  are  /so  power- 
ful, and  we  count  so  positively  on  finding  a  responsive 
feeling  in  others  (all  being  alike  interested),  that  ought 
and  should  grow  into  must,  and  recognized  in  dispensa- 
bility becomes  a  moral  necessity,  analogous  to  physi- 
cal, and  often  not  inferior  to  it  in  binding  force. 

If  the  preceding  analysis,  or  something  resembling 
it,  be  not  the  correct  account  of  the  notion  of  justice; 
if  justice  be  totally  independent  of  utility,  and  be  a 
standard  per  se,  which  the  mind  can  recognize  by 
simple  introspection  of  itself;  it  is  hard  to  understand 
why  that  internal  oracle  is  so  ambiguous,  and  why  so 
many  things  appear  either  just  or  unjust,  according  to 
the  light  in  which  they  are  regarded. 

We  are  continually  informed  that  Utility  is  an  un- 
certain standard,  which  every  different  person  inter- 


prets  differently,  and  that  there  is  no  safety  but  in 
the  immutable,  ineffaceable,  and  unmistakeable  dic- 
tates of  Justice,  which  carry  their  evidence  in  them- 
selves, and  are  independent  of  the  fluctuations  of 
opinion.  One  would  suppose  from  this  that  on  ques- 
tions of  justice  there  could  be  no  controversy ;  that  if 
we  take  that  for  our  rule,  its  application  to  any  given 
case  could  leave  us  in  as  little  doubt  as  a  mathemati- 
cal demonstration.  So  far  is  this  from  being  the  fact, 
that  there  is  as  much  difference  of  opinion,  and  as 
much  discussion,  about  what  is  just,  as  about  what  is 
useful  to  society.  Not  only  have  different  nations 
and  individuals  different  notions  of  justice,  but  in  the 
mind  of  one  and  the  same  individual,  justice  is  not 
some  one  rule,  principle,  or  maxim,  but  many,  which 
do  not  always  coincide  in  their  dictates,  and  in  choos- 
ing between  which,  he  is  guided  either  by  some 
extraneous  standard,  or  by  his  own  personal  pre- 

For  instance,  there  are  some  who  say,  that  it  is 
unjust  to  punish  any  one  for  the  sake  of  example  to 
others ;  that  punishment  is  just,  only  when  intended 
for  the  good  of  the  sufferer  himself.  Others  maintain 
the  extreme  reverse,  contending  that  to  punish  persons 
who  have  attained  years  of  discretion,  for  their  own 
benefit,  is  despotism  and  injustice,  since  if  the  matter 
at  issue  is  solely  their  own  good,  no  one  has  a  right 
to  control  their  own  judgment  of  it ;  but  that  they 
may  justly  be  punished  to  prevent  evil  to  others,  this 
being  the  exercise  of  the  legitimate  right  of  self- 
defence.  Mr.  Owen,  again,  affirms  that  it  is  unjust 
to  punish  at  all ;  for  the  criminal  did  not  make  his 
own  character ;  his  education,  and  the  circumstances 


which  surrounded  him,  have  made  him  a  criminal, 
and  for  these  he  is  not  responsible.    All  these  opinions 
are  extremely  plausible ;  and  so  long  as  the  question 
is  argued  as  one  of  justice  simply,  without  going  down 
to  the  principles  which  lie  under  justice  and  are  the 
source  of  its  authority,  I  am  unable  to  see  how  any  of 
these  reasoners  can  be  refuted.     For  in  truth  every 
one  of  the  three  builds  upon  rules  of  justice  con- 
fessedly true.     The  first  appeals  to  the  acknowledged 
injustice  of  singling  out  an  individual,  and  making 
him  a  sacrifice,  without  his  consent,  for  other  people's 
benefit.      The    second  relies    on  the    acknowledged 
justice  of  self-defence,  and  the  admitted  injustice  of 
forcing  one  person  to  conform  to  another's  notions  of 
what  constitutes  his  good.     The  Owenite  invokes  the 
admitted  principle,  that  it  is  unjust  to  punish  any  one 
for  what  he  cannot  help.    Each  is  triumphant  so  long 
as  he  is  not  compelled  to  take  into  consideration  any 
other  maxims  of  justice  than  the  one  he  has  selected ; 
but  as  soon  as  their  several  maxims  are  brought  face 
to  face,  each  disputant  seems  to  have  exactly  as  much 
to  say  for  himself  as  the  others.     No  one  of  them  can 
carry  out  his  own  notion  of  justice  without  trampling 
upon  another  equally  binding.    These  are  difficulties ; 
they  have  always  been  felt  to  be  such ;   and  many  de- 
vices have  been  invented  to  turn  rather  than  to  over- 
come them.     As  a  refuge  from  the  last  of  the  three, 
men  imagined  what  they  called  the  freedom  of  the 
will ;  fancying  that  they  could  not  justify  punishing 
a  man  whose  will  is  in  a  thoroughly  hateful  state, 
unless  it  be  supposed  to  have  come  into  that  state 
through  no  influence  of  anterior  circumstances.     To 
escape  from  the  other  difficulties,   a  favourite  contri- 


vance  has  been  the  fiction  of  a  contract,  whereby  at 
some  unknown  period  all  the  members  of  society 
engaged  to  obey  the  laws,  and  consented  to  be 
punished  for  any  disobedience  to  them;  thereby 
giving  to  their  legislators  the  right,  which  it  is 
assumed  they  would  not  otherwise  have  had,  of 
punishing  them,  either  for  their  own  good  or  for  that 
of  society.  This  happy  thought  was  considered  to 
get  rid  of  the  whole  difficulty,  and  to  legitimate  the 
infliction  of  punishment,  in  virtue  of  another  received 
maxim  of  justice,  Volenti  non  Jit  injuria ;  that  is  not 
unjust  which  is  done  with  the  consent  of  the  person 
who  is  supposed  to  be  hurt  by  it.  I  need  hardly 
remark,  that  even  if  the  consent  were  not  a  mere 
fiction,  this  maxim  is  not  superior  in  authority  to  the 
others  which  it  is  brought  in  to  supersede.  It  is,  on 
the  contrary,  an  instructive  specimen  of  the  loose  and 
irregular  manner  in  which  supposed  principles  of 
justice  grow  up.  This  particular  one  evidently  came 
into  use  as  a  help  to  the  coarse  exigencies  of  courts  of 
law,  which  are  sometimes  obliged  to  be  content  with 
very  uncertain  presumptions,  on  account  of  the  greater 
evils  which  would  often  arise  from  any  attempt  on 
their  part  to  cut  finer.  But  even  courts  of  law  are 
not  able  to  adhere  consistently  to  the  maxim,  for  they 
allow  voluntary  engagements  to  be  set  aside  on  the 
ground  of  fraud,  and  sometimes  on  that  of  mere  mis- 
take or  misinformation. 

Again,  when  the  legitimacy  of  inflicting  punish- 
ment is  admitted,  how  many  conflicting  conceptions 
of  justice  come  to  light  in  discussing  the  proper  ap- 
portionment of  punishments  to  offences.  No  rule  on 
the  subject  recommends  itself  so  strongly  to  the 



primitive  and  spontaneous  sentiment  of  justice,  as  the 
lex  talionis,  an  eye  for  an  eye  and  a  tooth  for  a  tooth. 
Though  this  principle  of  the  Jewish  and  of  the 
Mahomedan  law  has  heen  generally  abandoned  in 
Europe  as  a  practical  maxim,  there  is,  I  suspect,  in 
most  minds,  a  secret  hankering  after  it ;  and  when  re- 
tribution accidentally  falls  on  an  offender  in  that 
precise  shape,  the  general  feeling  of  satisfaction 
evinced,  bears  witness  how  natural  is  the  sentiment  to 
which  this  repayment  in  kind  is  acceptable.  With 
many,  the  test  of  justice  in  penal  infliction  is  that  the 
punishment  should  be  proportioned  to  the  offence ; 
meaning  that  it  should  be  exactly  measured  by  the 
moral  guilt  of  the  culprit  (whatever  be  their  standard 
for  measuring  moral  guilt) :  the  consideration,  what 
amount  of  punishment  is  necessary  to  deter  from  the 
offence,  having  nothing  to  do  with  the  question  of 
justice,  in  their  estimation :  while  there  are  others  to 
whom  that  consideration  is  all  in  all ;  who  maintain 
that  it  is  not  just,  at  least  for  man,  to  inflict  on  a 
fellow-creature,  whatever  may  be  his  offences,  any 
amount  of  suffering  beyond  the  least  that  will  suffice 
to  prevent  him  from  repeating,  and  others  from  imi- 
tating, his  misconduct. 

To  take  another  example  from  a  subject  already 
once  referred  to.  In  a  co-operative  industrial  asso- 
ciation, is  it  just  or  not  that  talent  or  skill  should  give 
a  title  to  superior  remuneration  ?  On  the  negative 
side  of  the  question  it  is  argued,  that  whoever  does 
the  best  he  can,  deserves  equally  well,  and  ought  not 
in  justice  to  be  put  in  a  position  of  inferiority  for  no 
fault  of  his  own ;  that  superior  abilities  have  already 
advantages  more  than  enough,  in  the  admiration  they 


excite,  the  personal  influence  they  command,  and  the 
internal  sources  of  satisfaction  attending  them,  with- 
out adding  to  these  a  superior  share  of  the  world's 
goods  ;  and  that  society  is  bound  in  justice  rather  to 
make  compensation  to  the  less  favoured,  for  this  un- 
merited inequality  of  advantages,  than  to  aggravate 
it.  On  the  contrary  side  it  is  contended,  that 
society  receives  more  from  the  more  efficient  labourer ; 
that  his  services  being  more  useful,  society  owes  him 
a  larger  return  for  them ;  that  a  greater  share  of  the 
joint  result  is  actually  his  work,  and  not  to  allow  his 
claim  to  it  is  a  kind  of  robbery ;  that  if  he  is  only  to 
receive  as  much  as  others,  he  can  only  be  justly  re- 
quired to  produce  as  much,  and  to  give  a  smaller 
amount  of  time  and  exertion,  proportioned  to  his 
superior  efficiency.  Who  shall  decide  between  these 
appeals  to  conflicting  principles  of  justice?  Justice 
has  in  this  case  two  sides  to  it,  which  it  is  impossible 
to  bring  into  harmony,  and  the  two  disputants  have 
chosen  opposite  sides;  the  one  looks  to  what  it  is  just 
that  the  individual  should  receive,  the  other  to  what 
it  is  just  that  the  community  should  give.  Each, 
from  his  own  point  of  view,  is  unanswerable ;  and 
any  choice  between  them,  on  grounds  of  justice,  must 
be  perfectly  arbitrary.  Social  utility  alone  can  decide 
the  preference. 

How  many,  again,  and  how  irreconcileable,  are  the 
standards  of  justice  to  which  reference  is  made  in  dis- 
cussing the  repartition  of  taxation.  One  opinion  is, 
that  payment  to  the  State  should  be  in  numerical 
proportion  to  pecuniary  means.  Others  think  that 
justice  dictates  what  they  term  graduated  taxation ; 
taking  a  higher  per-centage  from  those  who  have  more 


to  spare.  In  point  of  natural  justice  a  strong  case 
might  be  made  for  disregarding  means  altogether,  and 
taking  the  same  absolute  sum  (whenever  it  could  be 
got)  from  every  one  :  as  the  subscribers  to  a  mess,  or  to 
a  club,  all  pay  the  same  sum  for  the  same  privileges, 
whether  they  can  all  equally  afford  it  or  not.  Since 
the  protection  (it  might  be  said)  of  law  and  govern- 
ment is  afforded  to,  and  is  equally  required  by  all, 
there  is  no  injustice  in  making  all  buy  it  at  the  same 
price.  It  is  reckoned  justice,  not  injustice,  that  a 
dealer  should  charge  to  all  customers  the  same  price 
for  the  same  article,  not  a  price  varying  according  to 
their  means  of  payment.  This  doctrine,  as  applied 
to  taxation,  finds  no  advocates,  because  it  conflicts  so 
strongly  with  man's  feelings  of  humanity  and  of  social 
expediency  ;  but  the  principle  of  justice  which  it  in- 
vokes is  as  true  and  as  binding  as  those  whicli  can  be 
appealed  to  against  it.  Accordingly  it  exerts  a  tacit 
influence  on  the  line  of  defence  employed  for  other 
modes  of  assessing  taxation.  People  feel  obliged  to 
argue  that  the  State  does  more  for  the  rich  than  for 
the  poor,  as  a  justification  for  its  taking  more  from 
them  :  though  this  is  in  reality  not  true,  for  the  rich 
would  be  far  better  able  to  protect  themselves,  in  the 
absence  of  law  or  government,  than  the  poor,  and 
indeed  would  probably  be  successful  in  converting  the 
poor  into  their  slaves.  Others,  again,  so  far  defer  to 
the  same  conception  of  justice,  as  to  maintain  that  all 
should  pay  an  equal  capitation  tax  for  the  protection 
of  their  persons  (these  being  of  equal  value  to  all), 
and  an  unequal  tax  for  the  protection  of  their  pro- 
perty, which  is  unequal.  To  this  others  reply,  that 
the  all  of  one  man  is  as  valuable  to  him  as  the  all  of 


another.     From  these  confusions  there  is  no  other 
mode  of  extrication  than  the  utilitarian. 

Is,  then,  the  difference  between  the  Just  and  the 
Expedient  a  merely  imaginary  distinction?  Have 
mankind  been  under  a  delusion  in  thinking  that 
justice  is  a  more  sacred  thing  than  policy,  and  that 
the  latter  ought  only  to  be  listened  to  after  the  former 
has  been  satisfied?  By  no  means.  The  exposition 
we  have  given  of  the  nature  and  origin  of  the  senti- 
ment, recognizes  a  real  distinction ;  and  no  one  of 
those  wTho  profess  the  most  sublime  contempt  for  the 
consequences  of  actions  as  an  element  in  their  morality, 
attaches  more  importance  to  the  distinction  than  I  do. 
"While  I  dispute  the  pretensions  of  any  theory  which 
sets  up  an  imaginary  standard  of  justice  not  grounded 
on  utility,  I  account  the  justice  which  is  grounded  on 
utility  to  be  the  chief  part,  and  incomparably  the 
most  sacred  and  binding  part,  of  all  morality.  Jus- 
tice is  a  name  for  certain  classes  of  moral  rules,  which 
concern  the  essentials  of  human  well-being  more 
nearly,  and  are  therefore  of  more  absolute  obligation, 
than  any  other  rules  for  the  guidance  of  life ;  and  the 
notion  which  we  have  found  to  be  of  the  essence  of 
the  idea  of  justice,  that  of  a  right  residing  in  an  indi- 
vidual, implies  and  testifies  to  this  more  binding 

The  moral  rules  which  forbid  mankind  to  hurt  one 
another  (in  which  we  must  never  forget  to  include 
wrongful  interference  with  each  other's  freedom)  are 
more  vital  to  human  well-being  than  any  maxims, 
however  important,  which  only  point  out  the  best 
mode  of  managing  some  department  of  human  affairs. 


They  have  also  the  peculiarity,  that  they  are  the 
main  element  in  determining  the  whole  of  the  social 
feelings  of  mankind.  It  is  their  observance  which 
alone  preserves  peace  among  human  beings  :  if  obe- 
dience to  them  were  not  the  rule,  and  disobedience 
the  exception,  every  one  would  see  in  every  one  else 
an  enemy,  against  whom  he  must  be  perpetually 
guarding  himself.  What  is  hardly  less  important, 
these  are  the  precepts  which  mankind  have  the 
strongest  and  the  most  direct  inducements  for  im- 
pressing upon  one  another.  By  merely  giving  to 
each  other  prudential  instruction  or  exhortation,  they 
may  gain,  or  think  they  gain,  nothing :  in  inculcating 
on  each  other  the  duty  of  positive  beneficence  they 
have  an  unmistakeable  interest,  but  far  less  in  degree : 
a  person  may  possibly  not  need  the  benefits  of  others  ; 
but  he  always  needs  that  they  should  not  ^do  him 
hurt.  Thus  the  moralities  which  protect  every  indi- 
vidual from  being  harmed  by  others,  either  directly 
or  by  being  hindered  in  his  freedom  of  pursuing  his 
own  good,  are  at  once  those  which  he  himself  has 
most  at  heart,  and  those  which  he  has  the  strongest 
interest  in  publishing  and  enforcing  by  word  and 
deed.  It  is  by  a  person's  observance  of  these,  that  his 
fitness  to  exist  as  one  of  the  fellowship  of  human 
beings,  is  tested  and  decided ;  for  on  that  depends  his 
being  a  nuisance  or  not  to  those  with  whom  he  is  in 
contact.  Now  it  is  these  moralities  primarily,  which 
compose  the  obligations  of  justice.  The  most  marked 
cases  of  injustice,  and  those  which  give  the  tone  to 
the  feeling  of  repugnance  which  characterizes  the 
sentiment,  are  acts  of  wrongful  aggression,  or 
wrongful  exercise  of  power  over  some  one ;  the 


next  are  those  which  consist  in  wrongfully  with- 
holding from  him  something  which  is  his  due :  in  both 
cases,  inflicting  on  him  a  positive  hurt,  either  in  the 
form  of  direct  suffering,  or  of  the  privation  of  some 
good  which  he  had  reasonable  ground,  either  of  a 
physical  or  of  a  social  kind,  for  counting  upon. 

The  same  powerful  motives  which  command  the 
observance  of  these  primary  moralities,  enjoin  the 
punishment  of  those  who  violate  them ;  and  as  the 
impulses  of  self-defence,  of  defence  of  others,  and  of 
vengeance,  are  all  called  forth  against  such  persons, 
retribution,  or  evil  for  evil,  becomes  closely  connected 
with  the  sentiment  of  justice,  and  is  universally  in- 
cluded in  the  idea.  Good  for  good  is  also  one  of  the 
dictates  of  justice ;  and  this,  though  its  social  utility 
is  evident,  and  though  it  carries  with  it  a  natural 
human  feeling,  has  not  at  first  sight  that  obvious 
connexion  with  hurt  or  injury,  which,  existing  in  the 
most  elementary  cases  of  just  and  unjust,  is  the  source 
of  the  characteristic  intensity  of  the  sentiment.  But 
the  connexion,  though  less  obvious,  is  not  less  reaL 
He  who  accepts  benefits,  and  denies  a  return  of  them 
when  needed,  inflicts  a  real  hurt,  by  disappointing 
one  of  the  most  natural  and  reasonable  of  expectations, 
and  one  which  he  must  at  least  tacitly  have  encou- 
raged, otherwise  the  benefits  would  seldom  have  been 
conferred.  The  important  rank,  among  human  evils 
and  wrongs,  of  the  disappointment  of  expectation,  is 
shown  in  the  fact  that  it  constitutes  the  principal 
criminality  of  two  such  highly  immoral  acts  as  a 
breach  of  friendship  and  a  breach  of  promise.  Yew 
hurts  which  human  beings  can  sustain  are  greater, 
and  none  wound  more,  than  when  that  on  which  they 


habitually  and  with  full  assurance  relied,  fails  them  in 
the  hour  of  need ;  and  few  wrongs  are  greater  than 
this  mere  withholding  of  good;  none  excite  more 
resentment,  either  in  the  person  suffering,  or  in  a 
sympathizing  spectator.  The  principle,  therefore,  of 
giving  to  each  what  they  deserve,  that  is,  good  for 
good  as  well  as  evil  for  evil,  is  not  only  included 
within  the  idea  of  Justice  as  we  have  defined  it,  but 
is  a  proper  object  of  that  intensity  of  sentiment, 
which  places  the  Just,  in  human  estimation,  above 
the  simply  Expedient. 

Most  of  the  maxims  of  justice  current  in  the  world, 
and  commonly  appealed  to  in  its  transactions,  are 
simply  instrumental  to  carrying  into  effect  the  prin- 
ciples of  justice  which  we  have  now  spoken  of.  That 
a  person  is  only  responsible  for  what  he  has  done 
voluntarily,  or  could  voluntarily  have  avoide/d;  that 
it  is  unjust  to  condemn  any  person  unheard ;  that  the 
punishment  ought  to  be  proportioned  to  the  offence, 
and  the  like,  are  maxims  intended  to  prevent  the  just 
principle  of  evil  for  evil  from  being  perverted  to  the 
infliction  of  evil  without  that  justification.  The 
greater  part  of  these  common  maxims  have  come  into 
use  from  the  practice  of  courts  of  justice,  which  have 
been  naturally  led  to  a  more  complete  recognition  and 
elaboration  than  was  likely  to  suggest  itself  to  others, 
of  the  rules  necessary  to  enable  them  to  fulfil  their 
double  function,  of  inflicting  punishment  when  due, 
and  of  awarding  to  each  person  his  right.  . 

That  first  of  judicial  virtues,  impartiality,  is  an 
obligation  of  justice,  partly  for  the  reason  last  men- 
tioned ;  as  being  a  necessary  condition  of  the  fulfil- 
ment of  the  other  obligations  of  justice.  But  this  is 


not  the  only  source  of  the  exalted  rank,  among  human 
obligations,  of  those  maxims  of  equality  and  impar- 
tiality, which,  both  in  popular  estimation  and  in  that 
of  the  most  enlightened,  are  included  among  the  pre- 
cepts of  justice.  In  one  point  of  view,  they  may  be 
considered  as  corollaries  from  the  principles  already 
laid  down.  If  it  is  a  duty  to  do  to  each  according  to 
his  deserts,  returning  good  for  good  as  well  as  repress- 
ing evil  by  evil,  it  necessarily  follows  that  we  should 
treat  all  equally  well  (when  no  higher  duty  forbids) 
who  have  deserved  equally  well  of  us,  and  that  society 
should  treat  all  equally  well  who  have  deserved 
equally  well  of  it,  that  is,  who  have  deserved  equally 
well  absolutely.  This  is  the  highest  abstract  stan- 
dard of  social  and  distributive  justice ;  towards  which 
all  institutions,  and  the  efforts  of  all  virtuous  citizens, 
should  be  made  in  the  utmost  possible  degree  to  con- 
verge. But  this  great  moral  duty  rests  upon  a  still 
deeper  foundation,  being  a  direct  emanation  from  the 
first  principle  of  morals,  and  not  a  mere  logical  corol- 
lary from  secondary  or  derivative  doctrines.  It  is 
involved  in  the  very  meaning  of  Utility,  or  the 
Greatest-Happiness  Principle.  That  principle  is  a 
mere  form  of  words  without  rational  signification, 
unless  one  person's  happiness,  supposed  equal  in  degree 
(with  the  proper  allowance  made  for  kind),  is  counted 
for  exactly  as  much  as  another's.  Those  conditions 
being  supplied,  Bentham's  dictum,  '  everybody  to 
count  for  one,  nobody  for  more  than  one/  might  be 
written  under  the  principle  of  utility  as  an  explana- 
tory commentary.*  The  equal  claim  of  everybody  to 

*  This  implication,  in  the  first  principle  of  the  utilitarian  scheme,  of 
perfect  impartiality  between  persons,  is  regarded  by  Mr.  Herbert 


happiness  in  the  estimation  of  the  moralist  and  the 
legislator,  involves  an  equal  claim  to  all  the  means  of 
happiness,  except  in  so  far  as  the  inevitable  conditions 
of  human  life,  and  the  general  interest,  in  which  that 
of  every  individual  is  included,  set  limits  to  the 
maxim;  and  those  limits  ought  to  be  strictly  con- 
strued. As  every  other  maxim  of  justice,  so  this,  is 

Spencer  (in  his  '  Social  Statics')  as  a  disproof  of  the  pretensions  of 
utility  to  be  a  sufficient  guide  to  right ;  since  (he  says)  the  principle  of 
utility  presupposes  the  anterior  principle,  that  everybody  has  an  equal 
right  to  happiness.  It  may  be  more  correctly  described  as  supposing 
that  equal  amounts  of  happiness  are  equally  desirable,  whether  felt 
by  the  same  or  by  different  persons.  This,  however,  is  not  a  pre- 
supposition ;  not  a  premise  needful  to  support  the  principle  of  utility, 
but  the  very  principle  itself;  for  what  is  the  principle  of  utility, 
if  it  be  not  that  '  happiness'  and  '  desirable'  are  synonymous  terms  ?  If 
there  is  any  anterior  principle  implied,  it  can  be  no  other  than  this, 
that  the  truths  of  arithmetic  are  applicable  to  the  valuation  of  hap- 
piness, as  of  all  other  measurable  quantities.  j 

[Mr.  Herbert  Spencer,  in  a  private  communication  on  the  subject  of 
the  preceding  Note,  objects  to  being  considered  an  opponent  of  Utili- 
tarianism, and  states  that  he  regards  happiness  as  the  ultimate  end  of 
morality ;  but  deems  that  end  only  partially  attainable  by  empirical 
generalizations  from  the  observed  results  of  conduct,  and  completely 
attainable  only  by  deducing,  from  the  laws  of  life  and  the  conditions  of 
existence,  what  kinds  of  action  necessarily  tend  to  produce  happiness, 
and  what  kinds  to  produce  unhappiness.  With  the  exception  of  the 
word  '  necessarily,'  I  have  no  dissent  to  express  from  this  doctrine ;  and 
(omitting  that  word)  I  am  not  aware  that  any  modern  advocate  of 
utilitarianism  is  of  a  different  opinion.  Bentham,  certainly,  to  whom 
in  the  Social  Statics  Mr.  Spencer  particularly  referred,  is,  least  of  all 
writers,  chargeable  with  unwillingness  to  deduce  the  effect  of  actions  on 
happiness  from  the  laws  of  human  nature  and  the  universal  conditions 
of  human  life.  The  common  charge  against  him  is  of  relying  too 
exclusively  upon  such  deductions,  and  declining  altogether  to  be  bound 
by  the  generalizations  from  specific  experience  which  Mr.  Spencer 
thinks  that  utilitarians  generally  confine  themselves  to.  My  own 
opinion  (and,  as  I  collect,  Mr.  Spencer's)  is,  that  in  ethics,  as  in  all 
other  branches  of  scientific  study,  the  consilience  of  the  results  ot  both 
these  processes,  each  corroborating  and  verifying  the  other,  is  requisite 
to  give  to  any  general  proposition  the  kind  and  degree  of  evidence 
which  constitutes  scientific  proof.] 


by  no  means  applied  or  held  applicable  universally ; 
on  the  contrary,  as  I  have  already  remarked,  it  bends 
to  every  person's  ideas  of  social  expediency.  But  in 
whatever  case  it  is  deemed  applicable  at  all,  it  is  held 
to  be  the  dictate  of  justice.  All  persons  are  deemed 
to  have  a  right  to  equality  of  treatment,  except  when 
some  recognised  social  expediency  requires  the  reverse. 
And  hence  all  social  inequalities  which  have  ceased  to 
be  considered  expedient,  assume  the  character  not  of 
simple  inexpediency,  but  of  injustice,  and  appear  so 
tyrannical,  that  people  are  apt  to  wonder  how  they 
ever  could  have  been  tolerated;  forgetful  that  they 
themselves  perhaps  tolerate  other  inequalities  under 
an  equally  mistaken  notion  of  expediency,  the  correc- 
tion of  which  would  make  that  which  they  approve, 
seem  quite  as  monstrous  as  what  they  have  at  last 
learnt  to  condemn.  The  entire  history  of  social  im- 
provement has  been  a  series  of  transitions,  by  which 
one  custom  or  institution  after  another,  from  being  a 
supposed  primary  necessity  of  social  existence,  has 
passed  into  the  rank  of  an  universally  stigmatized  in- 
justice and  tyranny.  So  it  has  been  with  the  distinc- 
tions of  slaves  and  freemen,  nobles  and  serfs,  patricians 
and  plebeians ;  and  so  it  will  be,  and  in  part  already 
is,  with  the  aristocracies  of  colour,  race,  and  sex. 

It  appears  from  what  has  been  said,  that  justice  is 
a  name  for  certain  moral  requirements,  which,  regarded 
collectively,  stand  higher  in  the  scale  of  social  utility, 
and  are  therefore  of  more  paramount  obligation,  than 
any  others ;  though  particular  cases  may  occur  in 
which  some  other  social  duty  is  so  important,  as  to 
overrule  any  one  of  the  general  maxims  of  justice. 
Thus,  to  save  a  life,  it  may  not  only  be  allowable,  but 


a  duty,  to  steal,  or  take  by  force,  the  necessary  food 
or  medicine,  or  to  kidnap,  and  compel  to  officiate,  the 
only  qualified  medical  practitioner.  In  such  cases,  as 
we  do  not  call  anything  justice  which  is  not  a  virtue, 
we  usually  say,  not  that  justice  must  give  way  to 
some  other  moral  principle,  but  that  what  is  just  in 
ordinary  cases  is,  by  reason  of  that  other  principle, 
not  just  in  the  particular  case.  By  this  useful  accom- 
modation of  language,  the  character  of  indefeasibility 
attributed  to  justice  is  kept  up,  and  we  are  saved  from 
the  necessity  of  maintaining  that  there  can  be  laud- 
able injustice. 

The  considerations  which  have  now  been  adduced 
resolve,  I  conceive,  the  only  real  difficulty  in  the 
utilitarian  theory  of  morals.  It  has  always  been  evi- 
dent that  all  cases  of  justice  are  also  cases  of  expedi- 
ency :  the  difference  is  in  the  peculiar  sentiment  which 
attaches  to  the  former,  as  contradistinguished  from 
the  latter.  If  this  characteristic  sentiment  has  been 
sufficiently  accounted  for ;  if  there  is  no  necessity  to 
assume  for  it  any  peculiarity  of  origin ;  if  it  is  simply 
the  natural  feeling  of  resentment,  moralized  by  being 
made  coextensive  with  the  demands  of  social  good; 
and  if  this  feeling  not  only  does  but  ought  to  exist  in 
all  the  classes  of  cases  to  which  the  idea  of  justice 
corresponds ;  that  idea  no  longer  presents  itself  as  a 
stumbling-block  to  the  utilitarian  ethics.  Justice 
remains  the  appropriate  name  for  certain  social  utilities 
which  are  vastly  more  important,  and  therefore  more 
absolute  and  imperative,  than  any  others  are  as  a  class 
(though  not  more  so  than  others  may  be  in  particular 
cases) ;  and  which,  therefore,  ought  to  be,  as  well  as 
naturally  are,  guarded  by  a  sentiment  not  only  diffe- 


rent  in  degree,  but  also  in  kind;  distinguished  from 
the  milder  feeling  which  attaches  to  the  mere  idea  of 
promoting  human  pleasure  or  convenience,  at  once  by 
the  more  definite  nature  of  its  commands,  and  by  the 
sterner  character  of  its  sanctions. 





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